Ben Montgomery Makes Storytelling Compelling With Disney

Author and reporter teaches students storytelling techniques

March 2, 2022

As acclaimed author Ben Montgomery finished his presentation, I felt a sense of satisfaction and gratitude that I had had the opportunity to hear him speak.

Montgomery is known for his novel “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk”, a New York Times Bestseller, as well as his work as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting in 2010.  

As soon as Montgomery began speaking he grabbed my attention and that of the other students present. After sitting through two other years of Lit Fest, this particular presentation was a refreshing change and suddenly made me want to know more about nonfiction writing. 

When Montgomery was younger, he was not a fan of writing. He found it boring to write about things he had no interest in. He didn’t envision himself as a writer until he took courses on it in college. 

Soon, feature writing became his favorite thing to study. As he learned more and more about the craft, he became captivated by its engaging method of storytelling. This ultimately fueled his love for writing and pushed him to pursue careers in both journalism and creative writing. 

What really stuck out to me in his presentation is the way he compared his writing to the Disney princess movies of our generation. While watching Disney movies, he noticed how they all start out the same. 

The main character is not satisfied with their life and sings their wish song. The wish song outlines a strong desire he or she has. This prompts the character to go on an adventure and establishes the plot of the movie.  

Disney uses this concept in almost all of their movies to hook the audience and keep them interested in what’s going to happen to the character. That is exactly what storytelling is.

The purpose is to find a way to draw the reader in and hold their attention for the length of the story. Montgomery’s use of Disney songs to explain this tactic made it so simple to understand and all the more interesting. Though he could’ve just as easily chosen a complex analogy to explain this, Montgomery kept it basic and direct and found the perfect way to teach an important and useful concept to a room full of high schoolers. 

Additionally, Montgomery’s attention to detail when speaking to the audience about how to be a storyteller allowed for a more compelling presentation. He also made an effort to ask students questions to engage and better connect with them.  

Montgomery ended his presentation with asking students to figure out their inner tension. After listening to this presentation, I realized that writing does not just have to be something associated with school or as an assignment. Writing should have no limits and give a person complete freedom to express themselves in whichever they want to. It should serve as a creative outlet where you can be unapologetically yourself. 

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