English 881/781: Narrative Inquiry — Chapter 15 – Reading The Book of Stories

Overview to The Book of Stories


Chapter 15 – Reading The Book of Stories In Class Activities

Story and Myth

Freewriting: Strange Tales

  • What is the most unusual/fantastical thing that has ever happened to you?
  • What is the strangest story you have ever heard that the teller claimed to be true?
  • What is more important/real: What happened or the story of what we remembered as happening?
  • Even if you don’t know anyone who tells tall tales, the world if full of fantastical stories. Why? Why do imaginary stories matter to people so much?

Small Group Discussion

  • Share the unusual stories you’ve heard and the thoughts in your freewriting

Large Group Discussion

  • What are your thoughts about imaginary stories?
  • We also call these stories: coincidence, divine intervention, superstition/witchcraft, luck, or random chance. legends
  • William Bloom: “You’re like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, twice as charming and twice as fake. And I believed you for so much longer than I should have.”
  • Narrative Inquiry blends fact and fiction, the real and the literary. To a narrative inquirer imagined stories are just as important as real ones. In fact, sometimes it is often imagination, not reality, that controls people’s possibilities in life.
  • We come to believe the stories we tell.

Big Fish

  • Some key quotes from the film:
    • William Bloom: “In telling the story of my father’s life, it’s impossible to separate fact from fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is tell it the way he told me. It doesn’t always make sense and most of it never happened… but that’s what kinda story this is.”
    • Edward: “Will never told you?… Ah, Probably just as well. He would have told it wrong anyway. All the facts and none of the flavor.”
      Josephine: “Oh… so this is a tall tale?”
      Edward: “Well, it’s not a short one.”
    • Dr. Bennett (Senior): “Did your father ever tell you about the day you were born?”
      William Bloom: “A thousand times. He caught an uncatchable fish.”
      Dr. Bennett (Senior): “Not that one. The real story. Did he ever tell you that?”
      William Bloom: “No.”
      Dr. Bennett (Senior): “Your mother came in about three in the afternoon. Her neighbor drove her, on account of your father was on business in Wichita. You were born a week early, but there were no complication. It was a perfect delivery. Now, your father was sorry to miss it, but it wasn’t the custom for the men to be in the room for deliveries then, so I can’t see as it would have been much different had he been there. And that’s the real story of how you were born.”
      Dr. Bennett (Senior): “Not very excitin’, is it? And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involvin’ a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me.”
      William Bloom: “I kinda like your version.”

Small Group Discussion

Large Group Discussion: The Power of Stories

  • Can stories truly alter reality? If so, what responsibility does that impose on us if we use stories as research tools?
  •  Can stories be used to save people? Can we make use of that narrative power in any way as we conduct and write research?

Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions

  • Written by Daniel Wallace
  • Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic
                    Proportions
  • Discussion Questions: Big Fish
  • Some quotes from the novel:
    • “You’re not necessarily supposed to believe it…You’re just supposed to believe in it.”
    • “’You are a good dad,’ I say. ‘Thanks,’ he says, and his eyelids flutter a bit, as if he’s heard what he’s come to hear. This is what is meant by last words: they are keys to unlock the afterlife. They’re not last words but passwords, and as soon as they’re spoken you can go. ‘So.’”
    • “When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.”

One Final Piece of Wisdom from Big Fish

  • William Bloom (last lines): That was my father’s final joke, I guess. A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him. And in that way he becomes immortal.

The Book of Stories Additional Materials

To make your book complete, please add the following materials to it:

  • Book Cover (title, author name, image)
  • Book Front Matter
    • Title/Author Page (you need this page so you have somewhere to sign for when you give your book to some loyal reader!)
    • Dedication Page (it’s not a bad idea to dedicate your book to that loyal reader either!)
    • Epigraph (a suitable quote for your book)
    • Table of Contents
  • Book Introduction (in which you reflect on the nature of the stories in the book)
  • Back Cover (short description of the book and a quote from a colleague with their name/title/university)
  • Be sure to include page numbers for your book

Book Foreword

In addition to writing your own book, you will be asked to read someone else’s book and write a Foreword that they can include in their book. That way each of you will get a close, thoughtful, and supportive reading of your book by a trusted colleague.

Story Reading Groups (The Book of Stories Review)

  • For your Book of Stories, your Story Reading Group will provide you with two types of reviews
    • One person will write a Foreword for your Book of Stories (you will pick this person)
    • The other person will write a back cover quote for your book (you will pick this person)
    • If you have 3 people in your group, you are welcome to include 2 quotes for your back cover
    • Please make sure everyone has partners for these tasks!

Looking Ahead to Chapter 16 – The End of the Story (for now)

Dec. 6 Monday

  • The End of the Story (for now) Class Activities
  • Please bring a treat to share on the last day (or get yourself a treat if you are attending on zoom!)
  • DUE: Final Draft of The Book of Stories
    • Your Book of Stories must be uploaded to D2L by the end of the day
    • If circumstances require you to have a few extra days to complete your book, you may request that of Dr. Pagnucci
  • CANCELLED Requirement: Narrative Scholars Research Task
    • I had originally planned to have the ENGL 881 students do this task, but I am cancelling this requirement due to time constraints
  • Finish your book and then spend some time with a friend making a new story

Final Book Submission

  • When your book is complete, please upload it to D2L in the assignments folder called The Book of Stories
  • Please save your book as a PDF file, a Microsoft Word file, or some other format as long as Dr. Pagnucci can access it
  • Some optional book creation websites:
    • Microsoft Sway
      • Software for Bringing Stories to Life
    • Blurb
      • Blurb provides super low cost on demand publishing, so you could get a glossy copy of your book to hold in your hand
  • If you have trouble getting the cover to integrate with the book, you can make that a second file and just upload it separately into the same D2L folder using the file name Book Cover

The Perfect Song for Writing a Book

I found the perfect song to help you assemble your Book of Stories:


Required Materials and Task for Chapter 15 – Reading The Book of Stories