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Please be aware that some of our readings are “mature”—meaning, they may have “adult content.”

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Ok. Fiction.

Please be aware that some of our readings are maturemeaning, they may have adult content.

In the case of Cathedral, the content includes drugs. However, the use of recreational drugs is not glamorized in the story, and in no way are we advocating their use. If anything, the character who uses the drug is a bit of a dim-bulb!

We are trusting you, as Governors School students and therefore special, to handle this kind of content in a mature manner.

Ok. Fiction.Lets talk about fiction.

Youre going to write at least one, good story (or a set of flash pieces).

Heres an exercise which may help give you a jump-start on Fiction Project Option #1.Go give away a dollar.

Yeah. Really. Go out and give your dollar to someone.

It must be someone you dont know, and you CANNOT tell them why you are giving it to them. Dont give any explanation at all.

Be aware. Engage your senses. Notice EVERYTHING around you. Wake up. Be in the moment.

What are ya waiting for?

Go!Welcome BackDONT TALK.


Just sit down and describe the experience. Open up Word and start typing.

What happened?Hey, what?? Look at your writing. I cant SEE it. Theres no DETAIL!

What were you doing out theresleep-walking?

Describe what happened for realget some specifics in there!!


What was the setting?

What precisely was done?

What were some of the points of view?

What was said?

How did the spacearound you feel?EXACTLY what did the persons face look like?EXACTLY how did the dollar bill feel in your hand?What, in fact, was the STORY?I.e, what was the STORY in what happened?What makes ANY event a story?

What are the elements of a story?

As a writer, how do you find/see/think up stories?

Drawing on what just happened, and in a good paragraph, sketch a story.

Sketch = the outline or summary of a possible story.

Must include:

Characters (who are they? who are primary? who are secondary?)Plot (what happens, in what order, and why?)Setting (wheres everything happening? What, if any, is the significance of the setting or of particular details or objects n the setting?)Clear point of view (whos telling the story, and why?)Lets Talk about PlotWhere might the story of the dollar bill BEGIN? What are the possibilities?

Where might/should/can it END?

In what order will things happen, and why?

Whats the NARRATIVE QUESTION?Begin your plot with

You, back in the classroom, AFTER having given the dollar away?

This morning, when you first woke up?

The second you were handing over the dollar bill, putting it in the persons hand?

Yesterday, when I assigned you to bring a buck to class?1011End your plot with

You, back in the classroom, AFTER having given the dollar away?

You, twelve years from now, working as a check-out person at McDonalds in a scary section of Miami?

The second you were handing over the dollar bill, putting it in the persons hand?

You, falling asleep in bed tonight?THE POSSIBILITIESare endless.

And a blast.

12Plot NOTSTrick or twist or clever ending. Cute, yes. Fun, yes. But gets OLD quick. All other story elements are subordinated to the tricky ending, and those elements wind up with zero development.

Related to #1: plot grounded in a clever concept rather than character.

Suicide ending. Come on. Youre gonna have to do better than that.

Speaking of characterLets Talk about CharacterAre the people in your story


How do you make a good character?Try STARTING with a character!Develop an interesting personsomeone you yourself are CURIOUS ABOUT.

What are that persons anxieties, hopes, weirdest dreams, favorite color, relationship to parents, worst habit, favorite saying? What situations make her nervous? What do you NOT UNDERSTAND about your character?

Now take that person and put her in an interesting, fraught situation, one that will confuse, enrage, wound, subdue, rattle, or otherwise test her. THINK OF THE NARRATOR IN THE BLIND MAN STORY.Cathedral16Heres a guywhats he like? Who is he? Whats his thing?Kind of a dim bulb.Doesnt have much worldly experience; never left home town.Doesnt read a whole lot; got as far as ____ in school.Nice person; a bit sarcastic.Xenophobic.Married to a woman who is almost the inverse of the above.

So what situation, what set of circumstances, would put this guy to the test, or tickle his worst qualities, or make him nervous, or force a change, or nudge him toward self-awareness?For the narrator in Cathedral, who/what is the Other? How would you describe his encounter with that Other? What ultimately happens?Remember what I said about writers and artists forever wrangling with binaries--the problem of Self-Other, Subject-Object, Inside-Outside, Like-Unlike?

Who/what is YOUR Other?Try a story in the voice of, or from the perspective of, someone who bugs you, puts you off, or even really disgusts you.


make this person a SYMPATHETIC character!

Heres a thought:Fiction Project ASSIGNMENTOption 1Write a story.

Just a good, engaging, character-driven story.

If you want to base it on the dollar bill exercise, you may. But you dont have to. (Beware, if you use the dollar bill thing, of pat, predictable themes.)

Roughly 6 double-spaced pages.

Post a draft to your blog with the header, SHORT STORY ASSIGNMENT. Category: creative writing. Tag: creative writing.

Draft due: Monday, June 10th.Full Good Man is Hard to Find21Well use this story for occasional reference.Prose StyleBeginning writers often dont pay much attention to LANGUAGE and prose style.

As a fiction writer, a big part of what you do is shape, discover, play, and otherwise have a great time with WORDStheir sounds, textures, resonances.

For fabulous examples of style, go

22Youll hear me say this over and over:literary art starts with playdeep and sometimes even disturbing but pleasurable engagement with language.

Have fun.

Listen to the language.2324literary art starts with PLAYdeep (and sometimes even disturbing) but pleasurable engagement with language.

Have fun.

Listen to the language.

Youll hear me say this over and over:Fiction Project ASSIGNMENTOption #2Write a story which experiments in some way with plot, character, setting, mode.

Roughly 6 double-spaced pages.


Tim OBriens,How to Tell a True War StoryWhat do you make of PLOT in this story?Whats the shape of your own storys plot?Scene-setting (exposition)XXXXXHookXXXX

CrisisResolutionWhat SPEEDS pace?What SLOWSPace?Introduction of minor parallel plotHookHookHookFlashbackXXPartial answerHook = triggering action or complicating action or narrative question or twist. Different sources will call these by different names.

False clueIncreasing tension

ACTION!ANSWERS!Dialogue.Internal monologue.Description.TRADITIONAL PLOT STRUCTURE: standard rising and falling actionBut there are other structural possibilities !And did you know: each carries with it its own ideological assumptions about the nature of time, desire, purpose, even human existence itself?Nothing wrong with a traditional plot structure.Alternate Plot StructuresFramed narrative. (Or this is actually a plot device.) Have you seen Titanic?

Montage or collage. OBrien story?

Multiple and intersecting plots. Continental Drift.

Chronologically backwards plot. (Yesbackwards. See Lorrie Moores How to Talk to Your Mother.)

Static plots. (See experimental stories by Robbe Grille.)

All flashbacks, or footnotes, or exposition. Nicholson Bakers, The Mezzanine. Different plots can express alternative ways of experiencing TIME and REALITY! See Gabriel Garcia Marquezs One Hundred Years of Solitude.Circular plotCircular plotBTW, authors and titles mentioned here are class assignments or material can easily be found through simple web searches.

SoRight now we are reading and thinking about fiction, and you are trying your hand at fiction. The idea here is to explore, give it a chance, see what it feels like. Dont be afraid to fail. Id rather see a flop of a story which is nonetheless trying interesting thingsthan a polished or successful story which plays everything safe.30And you might try...FLASH FICTION!31Instead of writing a long, traditional, try a set of flash piecessay at least 4.


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