Assignment 9: Practice making up literary stories

(1)

Annelise had not eaten that day. That slice of bread would be her meal until she could find a job.

She felt lightheaded. She sat on a bench and pigeon-watched.

One pigeon caught her eye. It wobbled. When passers-by threw food at the pigeons, Wobbly could never get any, for it was too slow-moving.

Annelise took out her bread slice and threw pieces in Wobbly’s direction. Wobbly caught those. Annelise had never felt more sated.

(2)

Annelise had not eaten that day. In her purse was a slice of bread, and this was going to be her meal until she found work.

She carried a cardboard sign: Will work for food.

A man offered to feed her if she’d yell fire inside a theater. She hesitated. It did not seem right, except from her empty stomach’s vantage point.

“Okay, here we go. FIRE INSIDE A THEATER! FIRE INSIDE A THEATER!”

(3)

Annelise had not eaten for two days. She was desperately looking for a job but nobody would hire her because she looked exhausted and disheveled.

She found a piece of cardboard and wrote on it “Will work for food.” She held the sign at the busiest intersection in town. Nobody stopped. She felt entirely invisible.

A car hit Annelise. As she lay dying and her consciousness began to slip away from her, she wondered if she could have some food at her own funeral.

Instructor Response

Nice work. You have skillfully incorporated human feelings—desires and motivations—in a plot that advances, and you’ve done it succinctly. This has demonstrated how valuable thinking about character-driven stories can energize stories and augment story meaning. Your skill allows you now to build on the characterization and add complexity to the plot to create and engaging and purposeful story for readers. I’ve pointed out where I found things cranking along so that you can gauge the effects of your writing. Thanks for submitting. WHC

Assignment 9: Practice making up literary stories

(1)

Annelise had not eaten that day.  (Desire—food)  That slice of bread would be her meal until she could find a job.  (Barrier—no job)

She felt lightheaded. She sat on a bench and pigeon-watched.

One pigeon caught her eye. It wobbled. When passers-by threw food at the pigeons, Wobbly could never get any, for it was too slow-moving.  (Sympathy—nicely done. And embedded “pigeon-based” plotting with pigeon hunger and too-slow-moving complication. Great!)

Annelise took out her bread slice and threw pieces in Wobbly’s direction.  (Nice! Motivation from feelings of kindness with sympathy for hungry pigeon. A self-sacrifice that provides a really clear purpose for the story.)  Wobbly caught those. Annelise had never felt more sated.  (What a nice reversal and conclusion, the idea that Annelise’s hunger was satisfied by her act of kindness. Well done.)

(2)

Annelise had not eaten that day. In her purse was a slice of bread, and this was going to be her meal until she found work.  (Desire: hunger. Basic needs: food, find work. Character-based plotting!)

She carried a cardboard sign: Will work for food.  (Motivated to action. Good.)

A man offered to feed her if she’d yell fire inside a theater. She hesitated. It did not seem right, except from her empty stomach’s vantage point.  (Motivation. To satisfy need but by an evil deed. Will she or won’t she. Just great!)

“Okay, here we go. FIRE INSIDE A THEATER! FIRE INSIDE A THEATER!”  (Change and resolution. She fails to maintain her resistance to evil. A very nice and significant point of characterization accomplished with a few words. Effective plotting.)

(3)

Annelise had not eaten for two days. She was desperately looking for a job but nobody would hire her because she looked exhausted and disheveled.

She found a piece of cardboard and wrote on it “Will work for food.” (Motivation.) She held the sign at the busiest intersection in town. Nobody stopped. She felt entirely invisible.  (Yes. She wants work. No one responds. She feels bad.)

A car hit Annelise. (This is fatalism of sorts. Fatalism, although often useful and necessary, frequently erases action driven by the character and therefore the opportunity for characterization. Easily solved. It could be an opportunity for Annelise to contribute to her demise, either by a personality trait or by an action to satisfy her needs. For example, could she be hit by the car when trying to get to someone who is ignoring her so that that person recognizes she exists? Or could she have thought someone waved to her from another car and she ran to respond, mistakenly thinking it was a job offer but in her excitement runs in front of the car that hits her? Note that by thinking like this you would also be taking out “telling” (a car hit Annelise)—and begin to “show” through in-scene action, almost always a plus for characterization.) As she lay dying and her consciousness began to slip away from her, she wondered if she could have some food at her own funeral.  (This seems sentimental in the fact that she now is a victim. For prose, strength of character can add to meaning in these situations. For example, could she worry as she dies that the driver of the car will feel guilty, or be punished (for hitting her) when there was no fault . . . only her need to solve her problem.)

  1. Thank you SO much for your comments.

    Yes, #3 was a bit too ‘decadent’ though, after crying for killing off my character, I had fun imagining the paradox of partaking in one’s own funferal. Speaking of fun, in #2 I failed to clarify that she compromised by yelling “fire inside theater” as a substitute for yelling “fire” inside an actual theater–my warped sense of ‘humor.’

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