The Shape of a Story with Kurt Vonnegut

I love stories. Just love them.  I also love Kurt Vonnegut. So what better way to teach kids how to analyze a story than with Vonnegut’s dry sense of humor and his laid-back brilliance.

We all know about the pyramid structure of a story. You know, the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and, my favorite word, the denouement. It has a name; Freytag’s Pyramid. It’s good for analyzing plot structure and it’s easy to understand. However, not every story fits into this neat little pyramid. When you take into account individual characters the pyramid starts to crumble.

Vonnegut has given us another way to analyze the shape of a story. The use of both of these techniques blend perfectly into a classroom. Students get it. The story comes to life and we begin to see how the structure of a story, the pyramid, is different for different characters. Now we can analyze the structure in collaboration with the characters and point of view.

I ran across a blog by writer and teacher David Lomax. So, I can’t take the credit for connecting these dots. But it works. It’s cool.

Take a look at the video where Vonnegut describes his way of thinking about a story. It’s only a few minutes and well worth it. There’s a reason he’s an icon.

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