Posts from the ‘Creative Writing Summer 2013’ Category

Setting and Point of View in The Hunger Games: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Wednesday July 10 and Thursday July 11, 2013

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51BFUr-TbbL__SX215_The Hunger Games is a 2008 science fiction novel by American writer Suzanne Collins. It is written in the voice of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, exercises political control over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death.

The book received mostly positive feedback from major reviewers and authors, including authors Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer. It was praised for its storyline and character development, though some reviewers have noted similarities between Collins’ book and Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale (1999). In writing The Hunger Games, Collins drew upon Greek mythology, Roman gladiatorial games, and contemporary reality television for thematic content. The novel won many awards, including the California Young Reader Medal, and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year” in 2008.

The Hunger Games was first published in hardcover on September 14, 2008 by Scholastic, featuring a cover designed by Tim O’Brien. It has since been released in paperback and also as an audiobook and ebook. After an initial print of 200,000, the book had sold 800,000 copies by February 2010. Since its release, The Hunger Games has been translated into 26 languages, and publishing rights have been sold in 38 territories. The novel is the first in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). A film adaptation, directed by Gary Ross and co-written and co-produced by Collins herself, was released in 2012.

The Hunger Games takes place in a nation known as Panem, established in North America after the destruction of the continent’s civilization by an unknown apocalyptic event. The nation consists of the wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts united under the Capitol’s control. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly known as Appalachia.

As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol, in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight to the death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one individual remains. The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. The male tribute chosen from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a former schoolmate of Katniss who once gave her bread from his family’s bakery when her family was starving.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, victor of the 50th Hunger Games, instructs them to watch and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the other tributes. “Stylists” are employed to make each tribute look his or her best; Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, is the only person at the Capitol with whom she feels a degree of understanding. The tributes are publicly displayed to the Capitol audience in an interview with television host Caesar Flickerman, and have to attempt to appeal to the television audience in order to obtain “sponsors”. During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his longtime unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain sponsors, who can be critical to survival because of their ability to send gifts such as food, medicine, and tools to favored tributes during the Games.

While nearly half the tributes are killed in the first day of the Games, Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and survival skills to remain unharmed and concealed from the other tributes. A few days into the Games, Katniss develops an alliance with Rue, a 12-year-old girl from the agricultural District 11 who reminds Katniss of her own sister. In the meantime, Peeta appears to have joined forces with the tributes from the richer districts. However, when he has the opportunity to kill Katniss, he instead saves her from the others. Katniss’s alliance with Rue is brought to an abrupt end when Rue is killed by another tribute, whom Katniss then kills with an arrow. Katniss sings to Rue until she dies, and spreads flowers over her body as a sign of respect for Rue and disgust towards the Capitol.

Apparently because of Katniss and Peeta’s image in the minds of the audience as “star-crossed lovers”, a rule change is announced midway through the Games, allowing two tributes from the same district to win the Hunger Games as a couple. Upon hearing this, Katniss begins searching for Peeta. She eventually finds him, wounded and in hiding. As she nurses him back to health, she acts the part of a young girl falling in love to gain more favor with the audience and, consequently, gifts from her sponsors. When the couple remains as the last two surviving tributes, the Gamemakers reverse the rule change in an attempt to force them into a dramatic finale, in which one must kill the other to win. Katniss, knowing that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none, retrieves highly poisonous berries known as “nightlock” from her pouch and offers some to Peeta. Realizing that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that both will be the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.

Although she survives the ordeal in the arena and is treated to a hero’s welcome in the Capitol, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a political target after defying her society’s authoritarian leaders so publicly. Afterwards, Peeta is heartbroken when he learns that Katniss’s actions in the arena were part of a calculated ploy to earn sympathy from the audience. However, Katniss is unsure of her own feelings and realizes that she is dreading the moment when she and Peeta will go their separate ways.

In an interview with Collins, it was noted that the novel “tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others.” The novel deals with the struggle for self-preservation that the people of Panem face in their districts and the Hunger Games in which they must participate. The citizens’ starvation and their need for resources, both in and outside of the arena, create an atmosphere of helplessness that the main characters try to overcome in their fight for survival. Katniss needs to hunt to provide food for her family, resulting in the development of skills that are useful to her in the Games (such as her proficiency with the bow and arrow), and represents her rejection of the Capitol’s rules in the face of life-threatening situations. On the subject of the Games’ parallels with popular culture, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly writes that the book “is an incisive satire of reality television shows”, and that the character of Cinna “almost seems like a contestant on a fascist version of Project Runway, using Katniss’ outfits as a vehicle to express potentially dangerous ideas.”

The choices the characters make and the strategies they use are often morally complex. The tributes build a personality they want the audience to see throughout the Games. Library journal Voice of Youth Advocates names the major themes of The Hunger Games as “government control, ‘big brother’, and personal independence.” The trilogy’s theme of power and downfall, similar to that of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, was pointed out by its publisher Scholastic. Laura Miller of The New Yorker finds the author’s stated premise of the Games — an exercise in propaganda and a “humiliating as well as torturous …. punishment” for a failed uprising against the Capitol many years earlier — to be unconvincing. “You don’t demoralize and dehumanize a subject people by turning them into celebrities and coaching them on how to craft an appealing persona for a mass audience.” But the story works much better if the theme is vicissitudes of high school and “the adolescent social experience”. Miller writes:

“The rules are arbitrary, unfathomable, and subject to sudden change. A brutal social hierarchy prevails, with the rich, the good-looking, and the athletic lording their advantages over everyone else. To survive you have to be totally fake. Adults don’t seem to understand how high the stakes are; your whole life could be over, and they act like it’s just some “phase”! Everyone’s always watching you, scrutinizing your clothes or your friends and obsessing over whether you’re having sex or taking drugs or getting good enough grades, but no one cares who you really are or how you really feel about anything.”

Donald Brake from The Washington Times and pastor Andy Langford state that the story has Christian themes, such as that of self-sacrifice, which is found in Katniss’ substitution for her younger sister, analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus as a substitute for the atonement of sins. Brake, as well as another reviewer, Amy Simpson, both find that the story also revolves around the theme of hope, which is exemplified in the “incorruptible goodness of Katniss’ sister, Primrose.” Simpson also points to events similar to the Passion of Jesus; in the Games, “Christ figure” Peeta Mellark is stabbed after warning Katniss to flee for her life, and is then buried in the ground and placed in a cave for three days before emerging with a new lease on life. Further, she finds that the Christian image of the Bread of Life is used throughout The Hunger Games; in the story, Peeta gives Katniss a loaf of bread, saving the girl and her family from starvation.


WRITING ASSIGNMENT (3 to 5 sentences for each, for numbers 1-9)

1) Write a Letter

  • Pretend you are a tribute and are given one chance to write a letter home from the Capitol to your family.   It is the night before you are going to enter the arena and this is most likely the last chance you will ever get to say goodbye.

i.      What are you feeling about having to fight in the games?

ii.     What would you tell your siblings (if you have any)

iii.    What is the Capitol like? Describe what you have experienced.

iv.     What do you want them to remember about you?

2)  Describe the setting in one paragraph. Address the name of the setting, what it feels like there, and what time period it reminds you of.

3)  What is the lifestyle like in District 12? What can we learn about the characters based on how they interact with their living conditions?

4) How does the reaping make you feel? What is your impression of the Capital after the reaping?

5) Compare Effie to Katniss. How does this mirror your perceived differences between District 12 and the Capitol?

6) How do you think the train makes Katniss and Peeta feel? Consider their lives in the District and consider how easily everything appears on the train.

7) What is your first opinion of the Capitol? What would be your reaction in that situation?

8) Compare the Capitol to the Districts.

9) How do you think you would have reacted to the Avox?


Sources for assignment:

Hunger Games Assignments – Talman Library – Google Sites


Mr. Rowe’s Super Funtastic Class

Setting and Mythology: Creative Writing Lesson Plan Tuesday 7/9/13 (Continued)

Recommended Reading:  The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. - 501 A.G.E.

Recommended Reading: The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. – 501 A.G.E.

What is Adventure Time and why does a cartoon matter in Creative Writing? How can we use it to stimulate our own work?

First, let’s look at its concept and creation:

According to series creator Pendleton Ward, the show’s style was influenced by his time at California Institute of the Arts and his work as a storyboard artist on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. He tries to include “beautiful” moments like those in Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, as well as elements of subversive humor. The show began as a single stand-alone animated short which ran for seven minutes. Ward created the short almost entirely by himself, and wrapped up production for the short in the spring of 2006. It aired in January 2007 and again as part of Frederator Studios’ Random! Cartoons on December 7, 2008. After its release, the short video became a viral hit on the internet.Frederator Studios then pitched an Adventure Time series to Nicktoons Network, but the network passed on it twice. The studio then approached Cartoon Network. The network said they would be willing to produce the series if Ward could prove that the series could be expanded into a series while maintaining elements from the original short.


Written by Lord of Evil Himself to amuse and confound the citizenry of the Nightosphere, Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is perhaps the most dangerous book in history.

Although seemingly a guidebook to the Land of Ooo and its post-apocalyptic inhabitants, it is in fact an amusing nightmare of literary pitfalls, bombastic brain-boggles and ancient texts designed to drive the reader mad.

Complete with secret lore and wizard spells, fun places you should visit and places where you will probably die, whom to marry and whom not to marry, how to make friends and how to destroy your enemies–this volume includes hand-written marginalia by Finn, Jake, and Marceline.

Arguably the greatest encyclopedia ever written since the beginning of the cosmos, it is also an indispensable companion to humans and demons who know what time it is. Adventure Time!

Ward quickly retooled the concept of the pilot; he wanted a potential series to be “fully realized”, rather than possess the “pre-school vibe” that the original pilot had. One of the major changes from the pilot to the series was the emphasis placed on the background art. Dan “Ghostshrimp” James, an artist, was tasked with fleshing out the background; reportedly, he was told to make the series look like it took “place in a ‘Ghostshrimp World’”. He designed major locations, such as Finn and Jake’s home, the Candy Kingdom, and the Ice Kingdom.Ward, with help from Pat McHale and Adam Muto, turned in a rough storyboard that featured Finn and an “oblivious” Princess Bubblegum going on a spaghetti-supper date. However, the network was not happy with this story, and asked for another. Ward then created an early storyboard for the episode, “The Enchiridion”, which was his attempt to emulate the style of the original short. Cartoon Network approved the first season in September 2008, and “The Enchiridion” became the first episode to enter into production.

Setting and Mythology:

The show is set in a fictional continent called the “Land of Ooo”, in a post-apocalyptic future about a thousand years after the “Great Mushroom War”. According to Ward, the show takes place “after the bombs have fallen and magic has come back into the world”. Before the series was fully developed, Ward’s original intention was for the Land of Ooo to simply be “magical”. After “Business Time” aired, in which an iceberg containing reanimated business men floats to the surface of a lake, the show suddenly became post-apocalyptic, and Ward notes that the production crew “just ran with it.” Ward later described the setting as “candyland on the surface and dark underneath”. Ward stated that he has never intended for the Mushroom War and the post-apocalyptic elements to be “hit over the head in the show”. In fact, he limited it to “cars buried underground in the background [and elements that do not] raise any eyebrows.”  Ward has acknowledged that the post-apocalyptic elements of the series were influenced by the 1979 film Mad Max. Kenny called the way the elements are worked into the plot “very fill-in-the-blanks”, and DiMaggio noted that “it’s been obvious the Land of Ooo has some issues”.

The series also has a mythology, or an overarching plot and backstory that is expanded upon in various episodes. This backstory largely involves the Mushroom War, the origin of the series’ principal antagonist the Lich, and the backstory of several of the series principal and recurring characters, such as the Ice King, Marceline, and Princess Bubblegum. Ward has admitted that the details behind the Mushroom War and the series’ dark mythology form “a story worthy telling”, but that he feels that the show will “save it and continue to dance around how heavy the back-history of Ooo is.”

The show has received positive reviews from critics and has developed a cult following among teenagers and adults; Adventure Time has a passionate audience of both children and adults “who are drawn to the show’s silly humor, imaginative stories, and richly populated world.” Television critic Robert Lloyd, in an article for the LA Times, said that the series was a good companion piece “to the network’s [then] currently airing Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.” He complimented the setting and compared the two previously mentioned, noting that each take “place in a fantastical land peopled with strange, somewhat disturbing characters and has at its center a young male person or person-like thing making his way in that world with the help of unusual, not always reliable, mentors.”[2] He went on to write that the show is “not unlike CN’s earlier Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, about a boy and his imaginary friend, though darker and stranger and even less connected to the world as we know it. Lloyd also compared it to “the sort of cartoons they made when cartoons themselves were young and delighted in bringing all things to rubbery life.”

Mike LeChevallier of Slate magazine awarded the third and fourth seasons of the show four stars out of five. In a review of the third season, LeChevallier wrote that the series “scores relatively high marks for storytelling, artwork, music, voice acting, and realization with its neatly wrapped, 11-minute packages of multicolored awesomeness.” He further complimented the show because he felt that “it scarcely appears to be trying too hard to attract attention, yet it does just that”. He did note that “the short-form format leaves some emotional substance to be desired”, although he noted this was inevitable for a series with such short episodes.  In a review of season four LeChevallier positively complimented the show for “growing up” with its characters, and that “the show’s dialogue is among the best of any current animated series.” He concluded that the series possesses “strikingly few faults”.

The A.V. Club reviewer Zack Handlen summed Adventure Time up as “a terrific show, and it fits beautifully in that gray area between kid and adult entertainment in a way that manages to satisfy both a desire for sophisticated (i.e., weird) writing and plain old silliness.” He concluded that the show was “basically what would happen if you asked a bunch of 12-year-olds to make a cartoon, only it’s the best possible version of that, like if all the 12-year-olds were super geniuses and some of them were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the Marx Brothers.” Robert Mclaughlin of Den of Geek wrote that Adventure Time “is the first cartoon in a long time that is pure imagination”. He heavily complimented the show for “its non-reliance on continually referencing pop culture [...] and the general outlook is positive and fun.” Eric Kohn of IndieWire said that the show “represents the progress of [cartoon] medium” in the current decade. Kohn also enjoyed the way the show not only revels in “random, frequently adorable and effusive” aspects, but also “toys with an incredibly sad subtext”. Entertainment Weekly named Adventure Time #20 on their The 25 Greatest Animated Series Ever list. Later, in 2013, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Darren Franich awarded the series an “A” and called it “a hybrid sci-fi/fantasy/horror/musical/fairy tale, with echoes of Calvin and Hobbes, Hayao Miyazaki, Final Fantasy, Richard Linklater, Where the Wild Things Are, and the music video you made with your high school garage band.” Franich praised the series’ “consistently inventive” plotlines and its “vivid landscape”, as well as its continued maturation.


And we will continue our discussion of literary devices including motifs, found in Titanic:

In Titanic the constant images of the ship sailing on the ocean are visual motifs. But these images themselves fall into two categories:

See this link for more info.

Because there are two categories of ship shots there would in fact be two motifs.

  1. When the ship is shown in detail a particular idea is being presented. This idea is all about how great Titanic is and what an incredible achievement she is. These shots all present Titanic as a masterpiece, “the largest moving object ever built by the hand of man.” They also present the social structure of the ship because many of the details shown are those that apply to the luxury of the first class areas of the ship.
  2. When the ship is shown in extreme long shot the idea being explored is completely different. The ocean dwarfs the ship and so the motif means that even though Titanic is so great, she is still insignificant when compared to the ocean. It is these shots that provide the visual dramatic irony of the film. We know how this film will end because it is an historical fact that the Titanic sank, but the characters in the film are unaware of the tragedy that is sliding towards them.

Motifs in the Classic Film Titanic: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Monday 7/8/13

Welcome back from break!

NOTES: As I mentioned, I curved the last quiz. I did this by adding five points to everyone’s grade. Thus, if you received a 30, I entered 35 points in ThinkWave, our site where your grades for the class are found. See: … if you got 29 points, I entered 34, and so on.

91rZp5zs8kL._SL1500_Today, we will watch another classic film, Titanic. As usual, pay attention to plot, characters, and literary devices. We will also examine and learn about a new literary term: motifs.

First, let’s take a look oat our sample piece of great literature. According to an amazon review:

When the theatrical release of James Cameron’s Titanic was delayed from July to December of 1997, media pundits speculated that Cameron’s $200-million disaster epic would cause the director’s downfall, signal the end of the blockbuster era, and sink Paramount Pictures as quickly as the ill-fated luxury liner had sunk on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. Titanic would surpass the $1-billion mark in global box-office receipts, win 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director, launch the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time, and make a global superstar of Leonardo DiCaprio. A bona fide pop-cultural phenomenon, the film has all the ingredients of a blockbuster (romance, passion, luxury, grand scale, a snidely villain, and an epic, life-threatening crisis), but Cameron’s alchemy of these ingredients proved more popular than anyone could have predicted. His stroke of genius was to combine absolute authenticity with a pair of fictional lovers whose tragic fate would draw viewers into the heart-wrenching reality of the Titanic disaster. As starving artist Jack Dawson and soon-to-be-married socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater, DiCaprio and Kate Winslet won the hearts of viewers around the world, and their brief, but never forgotten, love affair provides the humanity that Cameron needed to turn Titanic into a moving emotional experience. Although some of the computer-generated visual effects look artificial, others–such as the climactic splitting of the ship’s sinking hull–are state-of-the-art marvels of cinematic ingenuity. It’s an event film and a monument to Cameron’s risk-taking audacity, blending the tragic irony of the Titanic disaster with just enough narrative invention to give the historical event its fullest and most timeless dramatic impact. –Jeff Shannon



In 1996, treasure hunter Brock Lovett and his team are searching the wreck of RMS Titanic for a necklace with a rare diamond, the Heart of the Ocean. They recover a safe and find inside a drawing of a nude woman wearing only the necklace. The drawing is dated April 14, 1912, the day the Titanic hit the iceberg. An elderly woman calling herself Rose Dawson Calvert and claiming to be the person in the drawing visits Lovett aboard the research vessel Keldysh and tells of her experiences as a passenger on the Titanic.

It is 1912 in Southampton, and 17-year-old first-class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukater, her fiancé Caledon “Cal” Hockley, and her mother Ruth DeWitt Bukater are boarding the Titanic. Ruth emphasizes the importance of Rose’s engagement; the marriage will resolve the DeWitt Bukaters’ secret financial problems. Made distraught by the engagement, Rose considers committing suicide by jumping off the ship’s stern; Jack Dawson, a penniless artist, intervenes and convinces her not to jump. Discovered with Jack, Rose tells Cal she was looking over the edge and Jack saved her from falling. Cal is at first indifferent to Jack’s actions, but when Rose indicates that some recognition is due, Cal offers Jack a small amount of money. After Rose mocks Cal by asking if saving her life meant so little, he invites Jack to dine with them in first class the following night. Jack and Rose develop a tentative friendship, even though Cal and Ruth are wary of the young third-class passenger. Following the dinner, Rose secretly joins Jack at a party in third-class.

Cal and Ruth both disapprove of Rose seeing Jack, so Rose attempts to rebuff Jack’s continuing advances. However, she soon realizes that she prefers him to Cal, and goes to meet him during what turns out to be the Titanic’s last moments of daylight ever. They go to Rose’s stateroom, where she asks Jack to sketch her nude wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace, which was Cal’s engagement present to her. Afterward, they evade Cal’s bodyguard and make love in an automobile in the ship’s cargo hold. Later, the pair go to the ship’s forward deck, witness a collision with an iceberg, then overhear the ship’s officers and designer discussing its seriousness. Rose and Jack decide to warn her mother and Cal.

Cal discovers Jack’s sketch of Rose and a mocking note from Rose are in Cal’s safe along with the necklace. Furious, he arranges for his bodyguard to slip the necklace into Jack’s coat pocket. Accused of stealing it, Jack is arrested, taken to the Master-at-arms’ office, and handcuffed to a pipe. Cal puts the necklace in his own coat pocket. Rose evades both Cal and her mother, who has managed to board a lifeboat, then frees Jack. The crew starts to launch flares to attempt to obtain help from nearby ships.

Once Jack and Rose reach the top deck, Cal and Jack encourage Rose to board a lifeboat; Cal claims that he has arranged for himself and Jack to get off safely. After she boards, Cal tells Jack the arrangement is only for himself. As Rose’s boat lowers away, she realizes she cannot leave Jack and jumps back on board the Titanic to reunite with him. Infuriated, Cal takes a pistol and chases them into the flooding first-class dining saloon. After using up all his ammunition, Cal realizes, to his chagrin, that he gave his coat and the diamond to Rose. With the situation now extreme, he returns topside and boards a lifeboat by carrying a lost child in his arms.

Jack and Rose return to the top deck. All lifeboats have now departed and passengers are falling to their death as the stern rises out of the water. The ship breaks in half, and the stern rises 90 degrees into the air. As it sinks, Jack and Rose ride the stern into the ocean. Jack helps Rose onto a wooden panel only buoyant enough to support one person. Holding the edge of the panel, he assures her she will die an old woman, warm in her bed. Jack dies from hypothermia. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe has commandeered a lifeboat to search for survivors. Rose gets Lowe’s attention and is saved.

Rose and the other survivors are taken by the RMS Carpathia to New York, where Rose gives her name as Rose Dawson in memory of Jack. She hides from Cal on Carpathia’s deck as he searches for her. She learns later that he committed suicide after losing everything in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Back in the present, her story complete, Rose goes alone to the stern of Lovett’s salvage vessel, takes out the Heart of the Ocean, which has been in her possession all along, and drops it into the sea over the wreck site. When she is seemingly asleep in her bed, the photos on her dresser visually chronicle that she lived a life of freedom and adventure thanks to Jack. A young Rose is then seen reuniting with Jack at the Grand Staircase of the RMS Titanic, congratulated by those who actually perished on the ship.


From a creative writing perspective. Theme, characterization, motifs, mood, and plot are concepts that apply to film as well as other forms  literature.

• Filmmakers purposely create a desired effect. Film elements (angles, shots, sound, lighting, and transitions) are used to influence the audience’s perception and understanding.
Identifying specific elements of film can help us to be critical viewers.

A motif  is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative (or literary) aspects such as theme or mood.


A narrative motif can be created through the use of imagery, structural components, language, and other narrative elements. The flute in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is a recurrent sound motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. Another example from modern American literature is the green light found in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Narratives may include multiple motifs of varying types. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, he uses a variety of narrative elements to create many different motifs. Imagistic references to blood and water are continually repeated. The phrase “fair is foul, and foul is fair” is echoed at many points in the play, a combination that mixes the concepts of good and evil. The play also features the central motif of the washing of hands, one that combines both verbal images and the movement of the actors.

A motif establishes a pattern of ideas that may serve different conceptual purposes in different works. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, in his non-linear narratives such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle makes frequent use of motif to connect different moments that might seem otherwise separated by time and space. In the American science fiction cult classic Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott uses motifs to not only establish a dark and shadowy film noir atmosphere, but also to weave together the thematic complexities of the plot. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of ‘eyes’ is connected to a constantly changing flow of images, and sometimes violent manipulations, in order to call into question our ability, and the narrator’s own, to accurately perceive and understand reality.

We will look for and identify various motifs in Titanic.

Toto: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!” Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Thursday 6/27/13

419px-WIZARD_OF_OZ_ORIGINAL_POSTER_1939Below is a plot summary for the original Wizard of Oz. Use it to study for today’s quiz, along with these items:

The quiz is found at:

Quiz topics will include:

Elements of a Short Story: See Short Story Elements.

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Armageddon (1998).  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Dead Poets Society.  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

What makes a Good Poem: What Makes a Good Poem? – Marilyn Singer.

Tarzan and the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Chapter XIX: See Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

END OF QUIZ MATERIAL (There will be no questions about The Fall of the House of Usher)

In 1939, Kansas farmgirl Dorothy Gale lives with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and farmhands Hunk, Zeke and Hickory, but gets little attention and is told to stay out of the way. Land owner Miss Gulch arrives at the farm demanding that Dorothy’s pet dog Toto be destroyed after he bit her. Fearing for Toto’s life, Dorothy decides to run away from home. On the road, she meets Professor Marvel, a travelling showman who pretends to foresee Aunt Em falling deathly ill. Dorothy rushes home as a tornado forms nearby. Dorothy’s family take shelter in the storm cellar, but, unable to get inside, Dorothy and Toto run into the house. Dorothy is knocked unconscious by debris, and wakes up to find that the house got swept up in the tornado and carried into the sky.

After the house lands, Dorothy finds herself in the colorful Land of Oz, meeting Glinda the Good Witch and the Munchkins, who were terrorized by the Wicked Witch of the East until Dorothy’s house crushed her. Her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, appears looking for her sisters’ Ruby Slippers, only for Glinda to enchant them onto Dorothy’s feet. After the Witch leaves vowing to get the shoes, Glinda suggests to Dorothy she go to the Emerald City and ask the Wizard of Oz to get back home. Dorothy and Toto follow the yellow brick road, meeting three companions on the way – the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion who seek a brain, a heart, and courage respectively and accompany Dorothy. They reach the Emerald City but learn the Wizard sees no visitors, but are eventually let in. The Wizard appears as a giant head made from smoke and fire, demanding that they kill the Wicked Witch and bring her broomstick to him in return for granting their wishes.

The group venture out into the haunted forest to get to the witches’ castle and kill the witch, but she sends her flying monkeys to capture Dorothy and Toto. At her castle, the Wicked Witch decides to kill Dorothy to get the slippers. Toto escapes and brings the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion to save Dorothy. They are surrounded by the Wicked Witch’s forces. She sets the Scarecrow on fire, but Dorothy puts him out with a bucket of water, splashing the witch and causing her to melt and die, leaving her broomstick, and the Winkies are happy to be free of Witch’s cruelty. Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City but the Wizard puts off his end of the bargain. Toto pulls aside a curtain, revealing the Wizard to be a harmless elderly illusionist. However, he gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Tinman a clockwork heart and gives the Lion a medal, proving that they had what they wanted all along. When it comes to Dorothy, the Wizard reveals he is also from Kansas himself and offers to take Dorothy home in his hot air balloon.

The Wizard and Dorothy prepare to depart, but Toto chases a cat, causing Dorothy to follow him. However, the Wizard’s balloon takes off, leaving Dorothy and Toto in Oz. Glinda arrives and reveals to Dorothy the Ruby Slippers can grant her the power to return home. After having an emotional farewell with her friends, Dorothy follows Glinda’s instructions, clicking her heels three times and repeating “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy awakens back in Kansas after being knocked out, with her family and Professor Marvel and Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory at her bedside, learning Oz may have been a dream, but it taught her to value her home and her family.

Oz the Great and Powerful: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Monday 6/25/13

As we have done with other great pieces of literature, we will examine a film today for plot, characters, and literary devices.

Oz-The-Great-and-PowerfulOz the Great and Powerful is a 2013 American fantasy adventure film directed by Sam Raimi, produced by Joe Roth, and written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner. The film stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda.

The film is based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, and also pays homage to the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of the books, Oz the Great and Powerful focuses on Oscar Diggs, who arrives in the Land of Oz and encounters three witches: Theodora, Evanora and Glinda. Oscar is then enlisted to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.

Oz the Great and Powerful premiered at the El Capitan Theatre on February 14, 2013, and with general theatrical release by Walt Disney Pictures on March 8, 2013, through the Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, as well as in conventional theatres. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $491 million worldwide in revenue, $149 million of which was earned during its opening weekend worldwide.

In 1905 Kansas, Oscar “Oz” Diggs works as a small-time magician in a traveling circus. As a storm approaches, the circus strongman learns Oscar has flirted with his wife and goes to attack him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that takes him to the Land of Oz. There the witch Theodora believes him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. En route to the Emerald City, Oscar flirts with Theodora, who falls in love with him, wishing to be his queen when he rules Oz. They encounter the flying monkey Finley, who pledges a life debt to Oscar when he saves Finley from a lion.

Upon reaching the Emerald City, Oscar meets Theadora’s sister Evanora, who is skeptical of Oscar being the foretold wizard. Evanora tells Oscar that the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her power. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl, a young, living china doll whose home and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. The three reach the forest and, upon retrieving the wand, discover the “Wicked Witch” to be Glinda the Good Witch, who tells them Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and manipulates Theodora against Oscar by showing him together with Glinda, saying he is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple she promises will remove her heartache. Theodora bites it and transforms into a heartless, green-skinned Wicked Witch.

Glinda brings Oscar’s group to her domain in Oz to escape Evanora’s army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides to Oscar that she knows he is not truly a wizard. However, she still believes he can still help them stop Evanora, and provides him an “army” of Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins to do it. Theodora enters Glinda’s domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar before threatening to kill him and his allies with the Emerald City’s well-prepared army. Oscar despairs that his army cannot defeat the Wicked Witches, but after telling China Girl about the exploits of his hero Thomas Edison, he realizes they can fight using prestidigitation.

Glinda and her subjects mount a mock attack on the Wicked Witches’ castle using an automated army of scarecrows blanketed by thick fog. The Wicked Witches are tricked into sending their flying baboons through a poppy field that puts the baboons to sleep. However, two baboons manage to capture Glinda, who is brought to the city square and enchained. Meanwhile, Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, only to seemingly abandon them in a hot air balloon loaded with the king’s gold, which Theodora destroys with a fireball. Oscar then secretly reveals himself to his friends, having faked his death. Oscar uses a hidden smoke machine and image projector to present a giant, holographic image of his face as his “true” form, and a fireworks display to attack and intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in her castle while Theodora flees on her broom, unable to hurt the “invincible” wizard; Oscar says Theodora is welcome back should she find good in her heart again. Glinda is freed by China Girl and defeats Evanora, destroying the Wicked Witch’s emerald necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance. The banished Evanora is carried off by flying baboons.

The film concludes with Oscar, now king of Oz, using his projector to sustain the belief he is still a powerful wizard and keep the citizens of Oz united against the Wicked Witches. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker, who helped build his machines, receives Oscar’s camping-tool jackknife.

Let’s Write a Short Story: Creative Writing Lesson Plan Monday 6/24/13 and Tuesday 6/25/13

On Monday we will have a quiz with 50 multiple choice questions.

The quiz is found at:

Quiz topics will include:

The Fall of the House of Usher: See The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe.

Elements of a Short Story: See Short Story Elements.

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Armageddon (1998).  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Dead Poets Society.  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

What makes a Good Poem: What Makes a Good Poem? – Marilyn Singer.

Tarzan and the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Chapter XIX: See Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs.



Below are today’s notes:

Let’s Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story, by Joe Bunting  is loaded with practical advice and motivation. That is why it is today’s reccommeded reading.

Recommended Reading: Let's Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story by Joe Bunting

Recommended Reading: Let’s Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story by Joe Bunting

Begin with basics of a short story. After you’ve chosen an idea, you need to remember the basics of a short story before writing one. Steps to a good short story are:

Introduction: introduces characters, setting, time,weather, etc.
Initiating action: the point of a story that starts the rising action.
Rising action: events leading up to the climax or turning point.
Climax: the most intense point or turning point of the story.
Falling action: your story begins to conclude.
Resolution: a satisfying ending to the story in which the central conflict is resolved—or not! You don’t have to write your short story in order. If you have an idea for a great conclusion, write it down. Move backward or forward from your starting idea (it may or may not be the beginning of the story), and ask “What happens next?” or “What happened before this?”


Suggested short stories:

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen – Great Christmas story, but it’s no fairy tale!

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Tender and moving Christmas story with a lesson.

Thank You, M’am A wonderful story by Langston Hughes, highly recommended!

The Cask of Amontillado Edgar Allen Poe spins a classic horror story.

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. A scary story told with mounting suspense!

A Dark Brown Dog This is a very sad story, but highly recommended.

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge Read it! Especially if you have never heard of it.


> Naomi Alderman ‘Jewfish’
> Naomi Alderman ‘Other People’s Gods’
shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Trezza Azzopardi ‘Sticks and Stones’

> Richard Beard ‘Guidelines for Measures to Cope with Disgraceful and Other Events’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> John Burnside ‘Something Like Happy’
> Kate Clanchy ‘The Not Dead and the Saved’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> David Constantine ‘Tea at the Midland’ winner of the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Linda Cracknell ‘The Lost Son’

> Anne Donovan ‘But’ originally published by Artlink and Scottish Book Trust
> Anne Donovan ‘Sleepers’
> Aminatta Forna ‘Hayward’s Heath’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Jane Gardam ‘The People on Privilege Hill’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award

> Niven Govinden ‘We Are Always At Your Service’ originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3′s The Verb

> Dominic Green ‘The Clockwork Atom Bomb’ originally published in Interzone 198
> Romesh Gunesekera ‘The Library’ originally published in Underwords: The Hidden City (MAIA press)
> Sarah Hall ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award

> Peter Hobbs ‘Deep Blue Sea’ from I Could Ride All Day In My Cool Blue Train (Faber)
> Nicholas Hogg ‘How the Tiger Lost Its Stripes’ editor’s choice 2009 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

> Tove Jansson ‘Snow’ from A Winter Book (Sort Of Books)
> Adam Kamiński ‘The Girl from the Train’ translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

> Jackie Kay ‘My Daughter, the Fox’ originally published in Endangered Species
> Etgar Keret ‘Magic & Childhood: three tales of innocence from Israel’
> James Lasdun ‘It’s Beginning to Hurt’ winner of the National Short Story Prize 2006

 > Alison MacLeod ‘The Will Writer’ originally published in Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin)
> Alison MacLeod ‘Coupling’ originally published in Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin)
> Jon McGregor ‘If It Keeps On Raining’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Sara Maitland ‘Moss Witch’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award

> Katherine Mansfield ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’

> Patrick Ness ‘The New World’ exclusive short story from his tenure as Booktrust writer in residence
> Courttia Newland ‘Smile Mannequin, Smileoriginally published in Music for the Off-Key (Peepal Tree Press)
> Rebecca O’Connor ‘St. John of the Miraculous Lake’

> Helen Oyeyemi ‘My Daughter, The Racist’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Ian Rankin ‘An Afternoon’
> Janes Rogers ‘Hitting Trees With Sticks’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Lionel Shriver ‘Exchange Rates’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Erin Soros ‘Surge’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Adam Thorpe ‘The Names’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Ricardo Waale ‘A Special Day’ translated by Christina MacSweeney
> John Waddington-Feather ‘The High Master and Little Billy Clough’
> Jack Wallsten ‘Something Light’ originally published in Aesthetica Magazine
> Clare Wigfall ‘The Numbers’ winner the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Clare Wigfall ‘Before Their Very Eyes’ written as part of her online residency
> Gerard Woodward ‘A Tray of Ice Cubes’

> Evie Wyld ‘The Whales’ exclusive short story from her tenure as Booktrust writer in residence

Short-Stories: Creative Writing Lesson Plan – Tuesday 6/18/13

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”  Joseph Heller

This collection of ten short stories,  Short-Stories [Kindle Edition] Various (Author), L. A. (Lemuel Arthur) Pittenger (Editor), was assembled nearly 100 years ago as a teaching aid. It “attempt[s] to present selections from a list of the greatest short-stories that have proved, in actual use, most beneficial to high school students.” The introduction presents a brief history of the short story from Cervantes’ “The Liberal Lover” in the seventeenth century to its widespread popularity in the early twentieth century. It also defines the essence of the short story, not by its length, but that it “…deals with a single character, a single event, a single emotion, or the series of emotions called forth by a single situation.” Each element in the short story should build to the stories point, even when it comes as a surprise to the reader. The introduction ends with a list of short story collections for suggested reading.

91ZGRJAmjwL._SL1500_The stories listed in the table of contents are:

“The Father” by Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson
“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” by Frank R. Stockton
“The Piece of String” by Guy de Maupassant
“The Man Who Was” by Rudyard Kipling
“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Gold-Bug”, by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Ethan Brand,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Sire de Maletroit’s Door” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson


What is a short story?

A short story is a brief work of literature, usually written in narrative prose. Emerging from earlier oral storytelling traditions in the 17th century, the short story has grown to encompass a body of work so diverse as to defy easy characterization. At its most prototypical the short story features a small cast of named characters, and focuses on a self-contained incident with the intent of evoking a “single effect” or mood. In so doing, short stories make use of plot, resonance, and other dynamic components to a far greater degree than is typical of an anecdote, yet to a far lesser degree than a novel. While the short story is largely distinct from the novel, authors of both generally draw from a common pool of literary techniques.

Short stories have no set length. In terms of word count there is no official demarcation between an anecdote, a short story, and a novel. Rather, the form’s parameters are given by the rhetorical and practical context in which a given story is produced and considered, so that what constitutes a short story may differ between genres, countries, eras, and commentators. Like the novel, the short story’s predominant shape reflects the demands of the available markets for publication, and the evolution of the form seems closely tied to the evolution of the publishing industry and the submission guidelines of its constituent houses.

The short story has been considered both an apprenticeship form preceding more lengthy works, and a crafted form in its own right, collected together in books of similar length, price, and distribution as novels. Short story writers may define their works as part of the artistic and personal expression of the form. They may also attempt to resist categorization by genre and fixed form.

NOTE: 10:07 pm Stopped movie (Armageddon 1998) at 120:24.

10:47 pm Stopped movie (Armageddon 1998) at 148:19.


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