Story Assignment One
Length: 5 - 10 double-spaced pages. Times New Roman x 12. Print on one side of the page only.
Due Date: September 18, 2013
This assignment is worth 25% of your final grade.
For this assignment you will attempt to write a story for which your classmates have already decided the setting, time period in which the plot unfolds, point of view and main conflict.
A great writing rule urges us to write what we know - writing about things we don't know often makes for unconvincing stories. But what's greater is our ability to expand our knowledge, thus expanding the possible scenarios we could put into words. I hope this will be a liberating exercise, one that shows you that you don't always have to be stuck with your immediate surrounding world as background for your fiction. Theoretically, randomizing the setting and conflict should mean we end up with fewer stories about high school bullies, hipsters in coffee houses, drunks in bars, college kids on drugs.
But I want to write about hipsters in coffee houses, you might say. If that's what interests you – by all means, write about it. But what if your setting is 19th century France? What if, instead of the Jupiter House we get to see a café on the Seine... in other words, I'm hoping that this exercise will show you the possibilities of transplanting a problem that interests you in the present back or forward in time, of disguising a modern concern as an ancient one. In his book "The Last Temptation of Christ" the Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis paints an incredibly vivid picture of Jerusalem during the days of Jesus. But in his book people drink raki and eat tomatoes and if you look closer, it's not the Holy Land, but the island of Crete that Kazantzakis shows us... sometimes an artist has not only the right to mold reality, but also the obligation to do so...
What could be a con of this exercise? We could end up with a lot of bad sci-fi stories. So I urge you, before you plunge yourself into a world of robots, zombies, vampires, angels or fairies consider if perhaps there aren't other, more realist possibilities to resolving the story and still following the setting, point of view and conflict you were assigned. If sci-fi is what you want to write, then don't rehash the old clichés; surprise us, or in the words of the great Ezra Pound (which themselves have become clichéd) "make it new."
Setting: Where should the story take place? You can be vague (a place of stifling heat and great humidity), or slightly more specific (a town on the sea, a village in the jungle, the arctic circle, the tundra). You can suggest a continent, or if you want to be more prescriptive - a country. And who says you have to limit yourself to our little planet or to geographical places found in the atlas?
Time Period: When should the story take place? 21st century? The 1600s? 33 AD? 1000 BC or this many years into the future?
Point of View: First Person, Third Person Close, Multiple Third Person, First Person Plural, Second Person Directed, Third Person Plural, Omniscient Third etc.
Point of View:
Conflict: What is the main conflict that drives the story forward. A murder or two? An accident? A theft or a heist? Or something more subtle: a couple on the verge of divorce after losing a child? Or does the conflict arise from betrayal, infidelity, cowardice.