If you're not used to them, book reports can feel super scary. How do you write one? How long should it be? What kinds of things should and shouldn't be included? Even if you like creative writing, that doesn't necessarily mean you enjoy writing book reports. Since book reports are the predecessor to writing essays, it's essential to know how to write about the book effectively before trying to prove something. If you're in school, you know that it's the time of year when all those assignments are starting to come due. So, we wanted to give a few book report/ISU tips to help make your report or presentation stand out!
Tip #1: Make Notes While Reading
Making notes allows you to keep track of everything you're reading and highlights key scenes or chapters you might want to return to. You might have a good memory, but it's a lot harder to remember where a character said a specific line if you didn't write it down or mark the page. Finding examples in the book can also back up what you are saying. If you mention how you didn't like the novel's overly long descriptive paragraphs, maybe choose one and include it in your report. That way, your teacher and anyone else can see that extremely long paragraph themselves. Making notes also gives you an idea of what you might want to talk about in the first place. If you've highlighted six different plot twists that you didn't expect, maybe others will like this story because of how suspenseful it is!
Tip #2: Don’t Read The Book All at Once
Reading a book for school can seem like a big task, and it's super easy to put it off. "I'll start reading tomorrow" turns into "I'll start reading it next week." Before you know it, you're supposed to finish the book in two days, and you haven't even made it past the first chapter. Many people think that binge-reading the whole novel in one sitting is helpful, but it's the complete opposite. First off, you'll likely strain your eyes from reading that long, especially if you're not used to it. By scrambling to finish the book quickly, you'll rush and likely miss important things. It's recommended to read a little bit each day (maybe one chapter) and take the time to make those notes. It may seem slow and tedious, but trust me, you'll thank yourself once you've finished the book. Another factor to consider is your enjoyment. Depending on the class, you might not have a choice on what novel you're reading. But if you do get to choose, you'll be naturally drawn to a topic you enjoy, an author you've already read or maybe a cover that looks interesting. If you rush through the book, you definitely won't enjoy it, making writing about it much harder.
Tip #3: Remember that Characters are Supposed to be Three-Dimensional
What will make your book report/ISU presentation interesting and stand out is also what makes the book stand out: the characters. Humans are three-dimensional. We have likes, dislikes, achievements, failures, flaws, and strengths. People in books are the same way. If a character seems flat, chances are the book is not good. You might not have enjoyed that action and adventure story but will be guaranteed to draw more people in if you emphasize how the characters are three-dimensional. Don't just talk about how they grew and what they learned; mention where they failed too. Of course, don't spoil the book. If describing their failures means revealing the ending, then that's probably not a good idea. Similarly, talk about the antagonist. They don't do anything for no reason, and they have desires too. Why does the school bully in the coming-of-age drama write mean notes on the main character's locker? Why does the fantasy villain want to conquer the kingdom? Why does the science-fiction overlord blow up an entire planet? If you can answer these types of questions, you'll make your report a lot more interesting.
Tip #4: It’s OK Not To Like The Book!
Many people think that they have to have liked the book that they're writing or presenting on. This assumption is not necessarily true, and it can cause plenty of problems if you believe this. It's much harder to write about a topic from the opposing side than the side you support. If you didn't enjoy the book, it's naturally easier to write from that perspective. The key is to articulate why you didn't like the novel, and if not you, who is it for? Every author writes for a particular audience. If the Western story wasn't for you, it was meant for someone else. At this part of the report, a comparison is a huge help. If you think Harry Potter fans would like the novel you read, then compare it to Harry Potter
Tip #5: Pictures Are A Huge Help
Don't let your reader/viewer wonder if the main character has brown hair or blond hair or if the antagonist is tall or short. Not only do pictures show what you're talking about, but they also make your work more engaging. Especially in a presentation, no one wants to stare at words the whole time. Generally speaking, including images is more accepted in ISU presentations, but if your teacher lets you put pictures in an actual report - go for it! Images are also used to show who the author is. Many writers have websites (like the one you're on right now) that likely include headshots of themselves. Websites are an excellent place to grab a picture of the author because you know it will be a professional image. If your book is well-known, any photo you find is likely either a still from the movie based on the book or fan art. Some authors, like me, have character drawings of their own that they use regularly. Also, if there is a movie, consider showing a scene or two.
By taking it one step at a time, book reports can be simple. Just because you're not a writer doesn't mean you can't ace book reports. If you thought these tips were helpful, then give them a try and see how much less scary those book reports/ISU presentations can be!
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