Imagining the Unimaginable: Pushing the boundaries of the narrator

Stories are everywhere, we just need to discover them. If you look around your house, I am certain you could find an object placed on a shelf, long forgotten. These items have histories. Some might be dull and largely irrelevant. Others might contain the memories of the past.

Students can always find inspiration in their everyday lives to generate stories and rethink their perspectives. Consider the ‘go to’ fives sense: sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. With these in mind, choose an item around the house or that has a significant role in your everyday routine.

  • What does a colour sound like?
  • What does a photo see?
  • What can plants smell?
  • What does a lightbulb feel when turned on?
  • What does a television think about?

Each of these questions can lead to deeper philosophical or provocative questions. For example, would a television stare back at those who turned it on? Would it be haunting to watch their faces as they watch hours upon hours of television?

Asking questions while developing a story allows us to consider the deeper or unexplored avenues of human behaviour. Writers are successful when they invent and imagine a world that the reader has never considered.

Imagine beyond everyday objects. When developing a story, it can be easy to play it safe and write from what we know (relatively). But what if we wrote from the point of view of someone completely outside of our reality? Not just just a different person, but a different thing altogether?

Perhaps, we could explore life from the point of a tree over hundreds of years (The Direction of the Road, Ursula Le Guin), or a dog traversing the wilderness (The Call of the Wild, Jack Frost).

We can also explore character who know little about the world around them. What does an unborn child know about the world outside of muffled sounds (Ian McEwan’s Nutshell )? What does a murder victim know of their demise (The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold)? These perspectives might encourage your students to realise that not all characters are privy to information and they must live with relative ignorance.

We can explore the limits of information and how this might drive the point. We an also consider how age might limit the ability to understand information and see the world in a unique perspective (Room, Emma Donoghue).

Try these thought experiments with your students and see what unique perspectives can be explored.

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