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🌲Sensemaking Through Fiction

Storytelling is an effective way to ensure true understanding — and to convey knowledge.

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I teach (& research) ancient civilizations, then write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history... which involves a fair amount of notetaking ;)

8 min read.

I still remember the moment I realized people could write stories — that they didn't spring fully formed into the universe, birthed by bookcases like cheese growing mold.

My grandmother bought me a typewriter when I was in 2nd grade. She was determined that I gain the skills necessary to support myself absent a husband, and in her world that meant clerical skills — the sorts of skills that would set me apart when I went to interview as a secretary or stenographer. To my grandmother's mind, these were good, respectable, white-collar jobs for a young woman — and easier on the body than seamstress work.

These were the days before computers entered middle-class American homes, and having a typewriter at home did indeed set me apart. A girl in my third grade class was poised to take advantage. She asked me to type up a story she'd written out, longhand, in big bubbly print letters I can still recall nearly 30 years later.

Next, I tried my hand at adaptation, turning The Wizard of Oz from storybook to screenplay for reasons I no longer recall, but burned the story into my mind forever. Writing became the lens through which I processed the world. I wrote hundreds of terrible poems in my teens, hardly unique, followed by more script adaptations as I involved myself in competitive theater through the Destination Imagination program (formerly Odyssey of the Mind).

It wasn't until college that I realized the true value of writing fiction, though. College planted the seeds of my identity.

Illuminating Ethics via Fantasy Fiction

The college I attended required graduates to complete a large capstone project in their senior year. It was meant to be a more flexible version of a master's thesis:

... may be a research project or a creative expression in the arts. It may include collaborative work and build upon components of internships, study-abroad programs, and other experiential formats, as well as reflect traditional research skills.

I was a philosophy major who loved speculative fiction; that year I also had an independent study where I analyzed Firefly from the perspective of ancient & modern religions. "Firefly & Religion: Shepherds & Prostitutes" was the name of my final paper, and I wish I still had a copy.

Told to combine the skills and methodologies I'd learned as a student of philosophy with "creative expression," I did just that; I wrote five short stories that leveraged fantasy to make a moral point.

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