Storytelling Writing Assignments

Fall 2014

Storytelling Front Page

Due Friday, Aug 22→ Memories in Threes

Reflect on a memory of an event from your life. Think about why the memory stays with you. Perhaps something changed for you afterward. Maybe the incident was unusual and never happened again; or maybe it was so ordinary as to represent a long chain of moments in your life.

a. Tell what happened in three short sentences: a beginning, middle and end.

b. Then take one of the sentences and write a short paragraph that takes you directly into the place, time, people, and feelings. Moment by moment, tell what happened.


Basic Story Structure

Due Tuesday, Aug 26→Pull-away Love

Write a scene between lovers in which one has begun to pull away from the relationship and the other is struggling to keep things as they were. You will need to have a subject for the scene, something for them to be negotiating, such as participation in an upcoming event. This may be thought of as an avoidance scene. One lover is avoiding dealing with the problem; the other is avoiding having to face it at all. This is a good example of a scene with strong subtext.


Basic Scene Structure

Due Tuesday, Sept 2→A Mission

Think of an urgent mission for a character, something that must be accomplished in a close time-frame, and put the character into early pursuit of the goal. Cover only a few moments in your scene, and make the beats of action escalate the sense of urgency. Leave your character at a point of frustration. Try this inside a building; try it outside in the open. Try it with other people around to provide obstacles.



Due Tuesday, Sept 9→Open Defiance

Write a scene in which there is an imbalance of power between characters but the weaker person will not accept it. How is the resistance expressed? Does it result in a change in the balance? In the relationship? Are things worsened? Remember you can have more than two people in a scene.

Openings and Beats

Due Tuesday, Sept 9→Scene Openings

Use your Open Defiance scene to experiment with sentences that open directly on the action.
1. Open on dialogue, and quickly establish who is speaking and what is going on.
2. Open on a description of someone in the middle of an action.
3. Open on a description of an element of a setting and then immediately introduce the character who belongs in that setting and in the scene.


The Purpose of Dialogue

Due Tuesday, Sept 16→Elephant in the Room

Put two or more people in a situation where they have something to do and that's all they talk about, as a way to avoid the real issue they are avoiding. For example, family members cleaning out the bedroom of a loved one after a funeral; a wife visiting her husband in prison; lovers who both know that one has been unfaithful. The possibilities are endless.



Due Tuesday, Sept 20→You Don’t Get It!

Put a character into a situation where she feels misunderstood, and describe the ways that she either tries to make herself heard, or else clams up and tries to get away unscathed.


Balancing Action and Response

Due Tuesday, Oct 7→Balancing Action and Response

Write a scene in which the activity of characters is incidental to the real purpose of subject of the interaction. For example, a woman cooks dinner while her husband sits at the table paying bills; they talk about their wayward teenager. Use as many of the seven character action/responses as you reasonably can.


Grounding and Pulse

Due Tuesday, Oct 21→Integrated Activity

Write a scene in which a character is under pressure that stresses him while he has to perform an activity that requires concentration. The pressure comes from something that is related to the present activity. A character might be loading a truck with stolen goods, or cleaning out the room of a person who has abandoned the family, committed a crime, or died.


Background and Theory

Due Tuesday, Oct 28→Intersection

Write a scene that starts with no apparent problem. Set your character in an ordinary activity and then introduce the first hint of a threat, then another, until something occurs to put the character in danger. Don't let him or her recognize the danger right away. You can leave your character there, and leave the rescue to a follow-up scene. Think of this scene as an intersection of the expected with the unexpected. This could be as simple as people on a stroll who stumble into trouble.


Building Better Content

Due Tuesday, Nov 4→Escalating Desire

Write a scene in which a character is not certain of the urgency of his desire, or what he will do about it. Let the scene be about his realization that he must act. Don't let the scene occur inside his head only, however, he comes to this insight because of what happens in the scene. The faint pulse of his desire grows stronger because of what he has to do. How does the scene build that conviction? Let this be a scene of escalation, driven by a character's response to exterior actions.


Group Project

Due Tuesday, Nov 11 Murder Club Scenes

Someone is going to be murdered. You are to determine who the killer and who the victim is, what the reason for the attack will be, and how and where it will take place.

Then you and your partner are to create/write 2 ½ scenes during class, imitating the style of “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson.

In the first scene, create an interesting setting where the deed will occur. Make it a public place of some kind that you will be able to describe what’s going on as the killer approaches the victim, using the killer as the POV, and introducing the killer.

In the second scene, have the killer and the victim meet and converse before the main event. In this scene you will want to introduce the victim and his or her circumstances.

In the 3rd half scene, tell enough to describe the murder, in slow motion.


Building Character

Due Friday, Nov 18→Suppressed Defiance

Write a scene in which one character is more or less powerless and is being ordered to do something by a person in authority. Let the respect and/or love of the underdog characters keep him from openly defying the order, but find a way to express the tension building inside. You can do this through physical movements, interior responses, attempts to reason with the person, or other strategies of your invention. Work toward closure that either shifts the position of power or reaffirms it.


Scene Evaluations

Ask yourself the following:

What is the event in the scene, and what emotions are connected to it?

What did you want the scene to accomplish for the story, and does it accomplish this goal?

Is it clear where the scene begins and ends?

What is the pulse of the scene, and is it sufficient to drive the action and the feeling? Does the pulse build to something?

Each scene will be scored on a 7-point scale:

0= Assignment not turned in at all

-1 point will be deducted for each class period your scene is late

1-2= Scene is obviously hastily written, undeveloped, with little attention to assignment parameters. One or more of the following: no clear purpose for scene; no clear event; no clear beats of action; no clear viewpoint, lacks focal point.

3-5= Scene parameters are followed; characters are believable, structure is identifiable. Clear goal for characters; clear event; clear viewpoint; clear beats of action.

6-7= Scene idea is fresh or imaginative, characters and scene are well-developed and consistent. Clearly grounded, with clear event, viewpoint, beats, character goals and purpose.



2 =60-69%

3 =70-74%

4= 75-79%

5 =80-85%

6 =86-93%

7 =94-100%

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