English 10 Becoming Historians and Writers In connection with the novel The Color of Water we are asking you to write an original short story that combines family/community experience, some factual elements and literary techniques. Step One Interviews: conduct and record primary interviews with at least two family members - and one community member. You must have 2 pages of typed notes from each of the three required interviews (6 pages total). These notes should be kept. Step Two Reflection: reflect on lingering impressions, important moments and interesting - characters discovered in your interviews. Consider: what surprised you? Who interested you? What moment captured your attention and imagination? Write 2 pages explaining and exploring your reflections which will conclude with your choosing a moment or event in one of the interviewee’s lives whose story you will tell. These two typed pages will be included in your final piece Step Three Character Analysis: character analysis- research the historical context of your story. — You will need to know details about the time and place in which your story occurs. The assignment will ask you to create a character analysis. You will need to identif~’ specific influential elements of the time period you are discussing. Some of the influential aspects you must research and articulate in writing are: • Music/Radio • Movie/Video! TV/Entertainment (was any of this invented?) • Political- Domestic and Foreign Policy, Presidential perspectives • Economic Issues • Environmental Issues • Religion • Literature- NY Times, other newspapers, famous speeches, novels, plays, etc. • Sports • Technology- can be as simple as an ice box. Other aspects to consider are what were the streets of New York like in 1920? What fashion was popular at the time of your story? What political and social events were the news of the day? You may start by generating a list of questions about what you need to know to give your story historical authenticity. Use both primary and secondary sources to answer those questions, collecting information from texts, documents, maps, letters, further interviews, newspapers and magazines. After completing this stage of your research, you will write a comprehensive character analysis that discusses important facts, moments, and influences upon your main character during the time period. Essentially, you are creating through factual research an actual individual in the time period selected. This should be a minimum of 4 pages typed in addition to notes and a works cited. The four pages should b~ broken into two parts: The first 2 pages should be a clear, cohesive description of the era incorporating the details you have discovered. What we do not want is a cut and paste description from an encyclopedia or history textbook. The final 2 pages will be an analysis of the information as it is applicable to your main character. In other words, if the transatlantic flight of Charles Lindberg had a no impact on your 15-year-old Italian immigrant living in Brooklyn, then don’t use it, or talk about it. Instead, discuss how the banking and stock market crisis of 1929 destroyed this young person’s savings and dreams of moving to a better part of the city. The information will be incorporated into your final story. These pages should be kept. Step Four Short Story: write an original short story that combines family/community — experience, historical fact and literary techniques. The setting and main character(s) and action will be drawn, as much as possible, directly from your interviews. As a creative writer, you will decide the style and content of the story (consider both psychological realism and naturalism as models). Employ various literary techniques to help tell your story, including dialogue, symbol, metaphor, description, imagery, impressionism, narrator’s comments, inner thoughts, and irony. As you write, more historical questions will arise. Brainstorming Activities for Writing Scene Sketches for Family Short Story The purpose of this activity is to quickly try creating several of the scenes you have listed on your “List of Scenes Worksheet.” For that worksheet, you began imagining what scenes might be in your story. This activity will give you the chance to actually write a few of those scenes in a very rough form. You can work on any scenes you wish, but for this exercise you must write at least one, full handwritten page You might write several short scene sketches or you might find that one . scene captivates your attention. In that case, you may just develop that one scene. It might feel awkward just jumping into the beginning of a scene. Don’t worry. Just get a picture of that moment in your imagination. Try picturing it—literally. Just write what you see, describing the place, its contents, its mood, the light. Try hearing it— literally. Write what you hear whether conversation or background sounds. Try watching what happens—literally. Write down the action that is taking place there. If you have a section of your story that you want to spend time writing that doesn’t appear on your “List of Scenes Worksheet,” that is all right. But the goal here should be the same. You should write rather quickly, trying to capture in language what you envision in a scene(s). Don’t try producing polished, finished work here. Think of this as improving. You might produce a paragraph or a page you really think is worth keeping, or you might not. The point is to START WRITING!!! Developing Detail In Your Story Try developing at least a page of handwriting for at least 3 of these exercises. Don’t worry about finding a way to incorporate this writing into your finished story. Parts of it, all of it, or none of it might appear in your final story. 1. Zoom In. Find a specific moment in your story which you believe is significant. Stop the story that moment as if you had paused a video. Then, “zoom in” on the details of that moment. Describe exactly what you see or hear (or any other sensory elements). Give your reader an accurate and rich description of that moment. Your description might focus on the setting, 2. Letting a character talk. Get acquainted with your character’s voice by just letting your character talk. Your goal here is to practice listening to your character’s voice. Select a topic or a moment in your story that your character might have strong feelings about. Then just begin writing what your character would have to say about this. You could develop this as a dialogue if you want your character to talk to another character about this. 3. Character descriptions. Show your reader two of your main characters. Write a description that creates a portrait of your characters for your reader. Develop a visual image of your character; show your reader what the character looks like by describing him or her from top to bottom. Include clothing, hair, skin, body type. Try conveying a sense of your character’s personality. 4. Quiet moments. Find a moment in your story when a character might be alone or quiet. The character might be alone physically or could just feel alone in a crowded environment. Or maybe your character is walking somewhere, riding in a car somewhere, or waiting for someone. First, briefly describe the context of this quiet moment and then reveal what your character is thinldng or feeling at that moment. You could write this as an interior monologue or as a person narrator just describing what the character is thinking/feeling/experiencing at that moment. 5. Symbolic objects or atmospheres. Reread your article/notes looking for an object that could hold special significance to one of your characters, even if the character does not realize it. Or find a moment when the atmosphere, the weather literately or the mood of a place, seems relevant to the action. Describe the object or atmosphere in detail. Possible Research Questions for historical context/authenticity: Teacher-Generated Research Questions I. When & where the story does take place? (You should be able to point to it on a map.) 2. What was going on politically in the nation? (E.g. Who is president? Is this an election year? What important federal laws or programs have recently gone into effect? Is American currently engaged in any notable international situations?) 3. What was happening politically on a local level? 4. What was happening economically in the nation? (e.g. How was the stock market doing? What new business or industrial developments were affecting the American economy?) 5. What industries were important in this region? What types of jobs were common for people in this community? How healthy was the local economy (E.g. Were a lot of people in town unemployed? Were people moving there to take new jobs?) 6. What was the predominant economic class of people living in that area? 7. What was the population of the city/town in which the article story occurs? How does that compare with the population of other towns/cities in the US? Had there been significant population change in recent years? 8. When was this city/town founded/settled? Does this place have a notable local history? 9. Describe the geography of the region. 10. What was happening culturally on a national level? 11. What was happening culturally at a local level? (E.g. is there an art scene? Theatre? Music? Cinema? What do people do for fun?) 12. Describe the predominant family/living situation in this area. (E.g. Couple with three kids and two grand-parents and an aunt living an a three-room apartment; single adults living in single-sex boarding houses; etc.) What were typical gender roles in this area (E.g. Did many woman work? Were most women home makers with a working husband?) 13. What is he general education level of the population in this area? What kinds of educational opportunities were available in this community? How does it compare to national averages? (E.g. What percentage of adults had graduated from 8” grade? High school? College?) 14. What is the national/ethnic/racial/religjous make-up of the town? (E.g. What percentage of the town is foreign-born? What is the dominant ethnic group? Are there sizable minority communities? Are there non-English speaking communities?) 15. What kinds of organizations did people belong to? (E.g. Labor unions, missionary societies, scouting, social clubs, political organizations, etc.) Name:_________________ Period:____ List of Scenes Worksheet for _____________________________(working title) Create a list of at least ~ specific scenes that might be included in your family story. This list does not need to be chronological, but it may be. Include in each scene, the exact setting, the character(s), the action (internal/external), the mood. Don’t worry if you can’t provide each of these elements for each scene; just try including as much as possible. Scene 1: exact location: 2: exact location: 3: exact location: 4: exact location Name:_________ Periods; / Preparing Context for Historical Research Your goal as a researcher for this stage of your project is to understand the broader historical- sociocultural context of your story. In other words, you will need to know the details about the time and place in which your story occurs so that the setting of your story will feel historically authentic to your reader. 1. State the following as specifically as possible: a. WHERE the story takes place: b. WHEN the story takes place: (decade, year, month/season, day?) c. WHO the main “characters” are in your story: d. WHAT the story is about: 2. Using the details of where/whenlwho/what, write a one sentence summary of the idea for your story: 3. QUESTIONS TO RESEARCH: Write questions about the historical, social and/or cultural background of your story: 1. 2. Incorporating Dialogue > Below are just a few ideas to get you thinking on how to include dialogue into your Historical Fiction writing. > First off, don’t be afraid to use dialogue. After all, what would a story be that had only narration? Pretty boring, right? The editors will be looking for those white spaces on the pages that only dialogue provides. Without dialogue, I think a reader would be too intimidated to even pick up the novel and start reading. Face it today most readers want — a fast read. Who has the time to spend months reading one book? Narration slows down the pace of story, dialogue gets things moving. If your story starts to sag in the middle — why not add a bit more dialogue and speed things up? Dialogue is a great tool for many aspects of writing. 1) 1) creating a great hook 2) 2) creating characterization 3) 3) condensing long passages of back story 4) 4) to show instead of tell 5) 5) injecting a bit of humor There are many more, but let’s explore these five ways to use dialogue. Creating a good hook: There’s nothing more appealing than a book that gives you a first sentence of dialogue so intriguing, that you can’t put it down. Why start the novel with a paragraph of narration that only describes the setting, gives back story or simply introduces or describes a character? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, only that sometimes, a line of creative dialogue can hook the reader faster than any other way. For example: In Laura Renken’s, My Lord Pirate, she starts out with, “Draw no blood, men. Remember, this is to be a wedding party.” She sets up a situation, draws the rçader in, and makes you want to read on. The reader wonders who is this speaking? Why would he/she even have to mention drawing blood, and — whose wedding party are they at? They obviously sound like they’re up to no good, but why? And what are they planning to do? Another example would be something like: “Release the girl, or I’ll be forced to kill you. Or “ how about “I’m sorry Ms. Jones, but your actions have just given me reason to fire you.” So you see, you capture the reader’s attention, get them thinking, asking questions, and then keep them reading to find out more. Characterization: An excellent way to let your readers know about your characters is through their speech. When dialogue is used properly, it should define your characters so thoroughly that if you took off all the tags of fake said, or Daisy whispered, we would still know who was talking. For example, in my Greek myth fantasy romance, Kyros Secret, one of the main characters ‘ is Ares, God of War. With a line like this, one doesn’t wonder who is speaking. “Just once is all you need to kill and then the rage and glory of war will be imbedded upon your soul. Just once is all you need to feel the triumph ofpower over your mother ‘s weak blood that flows through your veins.” With my heroine being the daughter of the god of war and goddess of love, it is easy to characterize her parents through dialogue alone. We can see through Ares’ speech that he is a ruthless man who thrives on war. Just from these two sentences, we learn that he wants his daughter to be a warrior like him, and that he thinks love only weakens a person, obviously having done so himself or he wouldn’t have coupled with the goddess of love in the first place. The struggle of good/bad is obvious, and his pull to sway his daughter down his path. Many manuscripts are rejected from editors just because they don’t find the characters’ dialogue believable. Another way to add to your characters’ special way of talking would be if they spoke with accents. An Irish brogue or a Scottish burr flags that character right off the bat as unique. Unless, of course, every character in the book spoke with the same accent. But even then, you can single them out by the way they think and put their words into sentences. Let me use another example to get this point across. In My Lord Pirate, Ms. Renken has a very interesting secondary character named Parrot. This character speaks Cockney, obviously having had a rough life and having grown up in a seedy part of town as seen by the dialogue. “Oi am ‘t no bugger slave. ‘Sides, the cap, he says fer me not ta coddleya, being ‘is prisoner ‘an all.” So through the use of dialogue we learn Parrot is independent, stubborn, proud, but yet has a bit of nurturing down deep, but doesn’t want to show it, therefore using the captain as the excuse not to. The sense of loyalty to the captain is seen through the dialogue as well. Condensing, Back Story Instead of using narration to tell tons of back story, let your characters do it for you through dialogue. It makes it much more interesting, plus it gives the characters a chance to develop. For example, in my book Eden ‘s Garden, I combine a bit of narration with the use of dialogue of Eden Ramirez, the heroine, and her dying father to tell of their relationship. “Papa.. don ‘t die, “Eden said in her native tongue. . She took his large hand in hers and rubbed it softly against her cheek He was so unlike the ha rdened professor who had come from the States year after year to study the Incan ruins of Machu Pichhu, hoping to find some uncovered truth or hidden treasure of the ancient culture that was destroyed so many years ago. “I wanted to marry your mother really, “he whispered through his ragged breathing. “I’m — sorry. I wish I could have been the father you needed.” Even if you didn’t know Eden was half Peruvian and lived far from her American father, you could see the distance of their past in their words. Her words show us she has feelings for him and doesn’t want to lose him. His words show most the back story. We find out he has never married her mother, he’s sorry about, and obviously had feelings for the woman, but something didn’t work out. He knows he hasn’t been a good father or there for his daughter, and we see his guilt as well. So, in just a few sentences, we find out what may have taken a page to tell about the back story. Use dialogue To Show Instead Of Tell Use your dialogue to show what you want to tell the reader. Instead of coming out and saying it with narration, let your characters do it for you. It’s more interesting, plus it’ll give the characters time to interact. Eden Reed does a fine job of this in this next passage from her book, The Valley of Hemlock. “There are other residents in the hbuse, aren ‘t there?” The corner of his moutlt lifted in a wry smile at my obvious concern for my virtue. “Yes, there are other ‘residents’. There are two in the physical sense: a cook and a housekeeper. But I’m not sure how many actual ‘residents’ roam the halls.” “Are you trying to tell me that this house is haunted? I was beginning to tire of people trying to “ scare me. His features turned hard again without warning. “That is the rumor.” “If you ‘re trying to frighten me, sir, you are wasting your time. I no more believe in ghosts than in flying pigs. So If you are finished, I’d like to retire. As you ‘ye been so gracious in allowing me to stay the night, I’d like to spend the rest of it sleeping.” “My intent is not to frighten you Miss Barlow only to persuade you. I would still prefer that you move to a different room.” Here we find out that Boothe House is said to be haunted. Ms. Reed has shown us the mystery as well as a bit of danger in her hero. We know that he wants her to move to another room and will even revert to scaring the heroine if he has to, to do it. He has a secret there to protect that he obviously doesn’t want her to discover. The heroine’s dialogue shows us that she is feisty and not afraid to stand up to anyone. We see her strength, as well as her practicality, and her boldness to those who try to manipulate her. There’s a sense of formality to both their words, so the respect for each other is still evident, but yet we sense obstinate behavior from both of them. So instead of Ms. Reed telling us that her heroine is tough and practical, and her hero cunning but yet still direct, she’s shown us. Injecting Humor The last aspect of using dialogue I’m going to mention for now, is using it to add a bit of humor into your story. This is a great way to show the playfulness or personality of a lighthearted character. Or perhaps even a normally dark character who has a spirited side to him. In The Valley of Hemlock, I find this passage a good example. The hero has just found the heroine snooping around in the fireplace. “I don ‘t believe we ‘ye met. Cinderella, isn‘t it?” Mortification was too mild a word. Maybe if I could just crawl up the chimney. “You ‘11 never make it, “Eric read my mind. “You ‘11 get stuck about halfway up. I’ll have a devil of a time trying to get you out, not to mention, ruining a perfectly good suit.” “Do you always spy on people? “ I asked in irritation. “I wasn ‘t spying. I was merely walking in the door when I heard a barrage of curses. I didn ‘t realize you possessed such a colorful vocabulary.” My palette had only just begun. “Are you going to come out of there or do you plan on spending the rest of the day in the ashes?” he inquired. “I was hoping maybe you‘d go away.” • “Not likely. At least, not until you tell me what you’re doing in there. Can‘tfind your glass slipper?” “You know how slippery glass is. I’m forever leaving it behind, “I said, backing out of the fireplace carrying a heaping pile of cinders with me. A section of broken glass; the size of a petite shoe rolled out. I liflted it with a shrug. “Posh! The wrong size.” This is a way to break up a story that may normally be serious throughout. Here, we see the playfulness and attraction each of the characters has for each other. Though the time period suggests they are still very formal to each other, we see their resolves caving in as they weaken and have a bit of fun in an uncomfortable situation. They both let down their guards and we get a glimpse into their true selves. Possible ways to begin telling your story: Another April “Now, Pap, you won’t get cold:’ Mom said as she put a heavy wool cap over his head. “Huh, what did ye say?” Grandpa asked, holding his big hand cupped over his ear to catch the sound. “Wait until I get your gloves:’ Mom said, hollering real loud in Grandpa’s ear. Mom had forgotten about his gloves until he raised his big bare hand above his ear to catch the sound of Mom’s voice. “Don’t get ‘em,” Grandpa said, “I won’t ketch 1 cold:’ To Build a Fire Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon’ trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-traveled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. it was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by kx)king at his watch. It was nine o’clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. it was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of the sun. This fact did not worry the man. He ~ used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the skyline and dip immediately from A Rose for Emily I When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monurnent, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years. The Catbird Seat Mr. Martin bought the pack of Camels on Monday night in the most crowded cigar store On Broadway. It was theater time and seven or eight men were buying cigarettes. The clerk didn’t even glance at Mr. Martin, who put the pack in his overcoat pocket and went out. If any of the staff at F & S had seen him buy the Cigarettes, they would have been astonished, for it was generally known that Mr. Martin did flot smoke, and never had. No one saw him. It was just a week to the day since Mr. Martin had decided to rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows. HANDS Upon the half decayed veranda of a small frame house that stood near the edge of a ravine near the town of Winesburg, Ohio, a fat little old man walked nervously up and down. Across a long field that had been seeded for clover but that had produced only a dense crop of yellow mustard weeds, he could see the public highway along which went a wagon filled with berry pickers returning from the fields. The berry pickers, youths and maidens, laughed and shouted boisterously. A boy clad in a blue shirt leaped from the wagon and attempted to drag after him one of the maidens, who screamed and protested. shrilly. The feet of the boy in the road kicked up a cloud of dust that floated across the face of the departing sun. Over the long field came a thin girlish voice. “Oh, you Wing Biddlebaum, comb your hair, it’s falling into your eyes,” commanded the voice to the man, who was bald and whose nervous little hands fiddled about the bare white forehead as though arranging a mass of tangled locks. Flight 1 About fifteen miles below Monterey, on the Wild coast, the Torres family had their farm, 2 a few sloping acres above a cliff that dropped to the brown reefs and to the hissing white waters of the ocean. Behind the farm the stone 3niOuntains stood up against the sky. The farm • buildings huddled like the clinging aphids’ on the mountain skirts, crouched low to the 4 ground as though the wind might blow them into the sea. The little shack, the rattling, rotting barn were gray- bitten with sea salt, beaten by the damp wind until they had taken on the color of the granite hills. Two horses, a red cow and a red calf, half a dozen pigs and a flock of lean, multicolored chickens stocked the place. A little corn was raised on the sterile John Steinbeck 655 1. aphids (S’fldz): small insects that live on plants and slick their juices. The Jilting of Granny Weatherall She flicked her wrist neatly out of Doctor Harry’s pudgy careful fingers and pulled the sheet Up to her chin. The brat ought to be in knee breeches. Doctoring around the country with pectades on his nose! “Get along now, take Your schoolbooks and go. There’s nothing wrong with me.” Everyday Use for your grandmama I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. it is like an ~tended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular, grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.
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