Write Inside the Story to Help You Read Well



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Write Inside the Story to Help You Read Well





  • Read trying to experience the story.

  • Choose a part that matters.

  • Step into that story. As you envision, fill in the details.

  • Write a bit to help you go into the story. Write a few lines that could belong in it. Resume reading.

  • Pause to write again when it feels right.


Strategies for Writing in Response to Reading

  • Find a significant moment from the story. Copy the start of it into your notebook; envision it; fill in details, sounds, actions thoughts, feelings.

  • Be a wide-awake reader. Notice and underline details others might pass by. Then write a thought about what you notice.

  • Think about an author’s language choices, even in small words like ‘so.’

  • Pay special attention to aspects of texts that are noteworthy, including a character’s actions, motivations, struggles, and changes.

  • We ask, “What is this story really about?” More specifically, we look at:

    • The section(s) that best capture the whole story’s meaning

    • What the character learns in the story

    • How all elements of the story contribute to the story’s message


Thinking About Characters

  • What kind of person is this character?

  • What does this character long for? Fear?

  • What is the character struggling against? What gets in the character’s way?


  • What relationships does the character have and how do these relationships play a significant role in the story?

  • How does the character change over the course of the story?

  • Does the character learn lessons or come to realizations?


Prompts for Pushing Our Thinking About Reading

  • For example…

  • Another example is…

  • To add on…

  • This makes me realize….

  • This is important because…

  • This is giving me the idea that…

  • The reason for this is…

  • Another reason is…

  • This connects with…

  • On the other hand…

  • I partly agree but… because…

  • Could it also be that…

  • Might the reason for this be…

  • This is similar to…

  • This is different from…

  • I think this is important because….

  • I noticed that section, too…and I think this connects to the whole story because…

  • I see (the item you are discussing), and then a similar thing happens (in this place), I think this is repeated because….

  • There is one thing in the story that doesn’t ‘fit’ for me and it’s…

  • This might be present because...

  • In the beginning….then later…..finally……

  • In the beginning… in the middle… at the end…

  • Many people think… but I think…

  • I used to think… but now I’m realizing…


Interpretation: What is This Story Really About?


  • What single section—or which two related sections—best capture(s) the story’s meaning?
  • Is there one object or one moment from the story that sort of symbolizes the whole message of this story? How does this object or moment convey the overall meaning?


  • What does the character learn in this story? Is this a life lesson that readers are also meant to learn?

  • What life lesson can I draw from this story? How does this story teach me a lesson that can help me live my life differently?

  • How might all the elements of this story contribute to the message of the story? How does the title contribute? The beginning? The setting? The way the character changes? The form? The end?


Questions Essayists Ask of a Thesis Statement


  • Does this relate to both the 1st and 2nd halves of the text?

  • How would I support this?

    • At the start of story and then at the end of story

    • One character, then another

    • One reason, then another

  • Does the thesis address what the story is really about, the internal as well as the external story?

  • Can I deliver with my planned categories what I promise in my thesis?

Tips and Tools for Writing a Thesis and Topic Sentences for a Literary Essay

    • First gather lots of ideas about the text you’ve read. Be sure you read closely, really noticing stuff and then write “The idea I have about this is…” Use thought prompts to write long. Reread, looking for ideas that are true and interesting. Box them and write more about them. Then reread again, looking for ideas that are true and interesting.

    • Pay attention to characters and their traits, wants, struggles, changes, and lessons. Think about the whole-story as a story of a character who wants something, struggles, and then changes or learns a lesson.

    • Think about the issues in your life and think, “How does this story go with my issue?” This can help you find something to say that really matters to you.

    • Ask, “What’s this story really about?” Look how the author wrote it, and think, “Why did the author do this?” Expect the author to make craft decisions which highlight the meaning the author hopes to convey.

    • Reread all your ideas and find things that seem interesting and true and important. Compile these.

    • Draft a possible thesis statement, then test it out. Ask, “Does this go with the whole story?” and “Can I support this?”

    • Maybe write, “Some people think this is a story about… but I think it is really about…” Consider whether your thesis addresses the internal as well as the external storyline of the text under study.

    • Write your thesis and plan your paragraphs. Your paragraphs might be organized to show how your thesis is true at the beginning and the end of the story, or in one way and another way, for one reason or another reason.

    • Reread your thesis with lawyer’s eyes. Look at what you have promised to prove and make sure you can do that. Check every word. Be sure your subordinate claims match your thesis. Rewrite over and over.

How to Angle a Story to Make a Point





  • Begin the story by reiterating the point you want to make.

  • Mention what the character does not do as a way to draw attention to what the character does do.

  • Repeat the key words from the main idea/topic sentence often.



Examples of Increasingly Advanced Textual References





  1. Gabriel is determined. An example is when he finds the cat.

  2. Gabriel is determined. We see this when he looks and looks for the cat.

  3. Gabriel is determined. When he hears a cry, he gets up to look for what is making the sound. He peers into the alley. He finds the cat.

  4. Gabriel is determined. When he hears a cry, he doesn’t just glance around the source of it. He actually gets up and walks down the street, looking for the source. He doesn’t just glance in the alleys—he peers into them. When he hears the noise a second time, he walks faster and searches more. Other people might just glance around, looking for the source of the noise, but Gabriel’s determination makes him look until he spots the tiny kitten.




Charts for Literary Essays: Writing About Reading





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