Mystery Word Story Element Investigate…

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Short Story Unit Objectives 2010/11

Mystery Word

Story Element


Where? When?


  • The way people speak: broken, dialect or 'proper' English?

  • Cultural references (e.g. chopsticks, some foreign words)



  • Indirect Characterization: judge or infer the personality traits yourself, from the words of others or from actions the character does

  • Direct Characterization: the narrator him/herself tells you the characters personality traits

  • The main character with a goal is called the protagonist; the main person or thing working against that goal is the antagonist (as in 'anti-'); in good fiction, the antagonist is seldom purely evil (see conflict)

  • Character Arc: How do the characters grow and change from the beginning to end? What causes it?


Structure (plot)
  • Exposition  Complication  Rising Action  Climax  Falling Action/Denoument  Resolution

  • In a short story, the last two of these may both only take up a few sentences at the end.



  • Theme can be explicit: a moral, the kind of lesson learned in a fable, fairytale or personal anecdote

  • Theme can also be implicit/implied: in most stories, themes are shown from many sides, without tidy little answers or moral lessons… because that's more like life

  • Theme is often a universal feeling or quality (loneliness, isolation, loyalty, courage); a universal problem or issue (poverty, survival, inequality, greed); or a universal conflict (sibling rivalry, mothers and daughters, religious conflicts, man and machine)


  • How is conflict in the story simply a result of different characters' different, conflicting motivations?

7 Typical Types:

  • Character vs. Character

  • Character vs. Him/herself

  • Character vs. Nature (the elements and non-human animals)

  • Character vs. Society or Social Conventions

  • Character vs. the Supernatural

  • Character vs. Technology/Machine

  • Character vs. Fate/Destiny



  • Mystery? Romance? Action/Adventure? Coming of Age? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Thriller? Historical Literature?

Point of View

  • Difference between narrator, author, and character?

  • Omniscient, Limited Omniscient, 1st Person, 3rd Person/Objective

Situational Irony

  • Arises out of the ongoing plot and characters of the story, not thin air. Something perfectly fitting – either good or bad -- but quite unexpected, surprises both readers and characters near the end of a story (e.g. when Bruce Willis himself turns out to be the 'dead person' the little boy sees in The Sixth Sense)


  • A symbol can be connected to theme, structure (e.g. foreshadowing storm), conflict, or character

  • It may be any object that, upon close inspection, the author has given a deeper meaning

  • A symbol can touch readers minds and emotions more powerfully than dialogue: my photo of the African children looking so overjoyed just to have pencils for school says more about the theme of "appreciation" than a million lectures from my mother could

  • Universal symbols are images that nearly every culture connects with an idea, such as a dove for peace

  • Religious symbols are those that anyone who follows a specific religion will pick up on (such as a crown of thorns, someone being nailed up and stabbed in the side, a fish on the rear of a car)

  • Context-specific symbols: Often a symbol doesn't begin with meaning, but it is given meaning as the story goes along (e.g. A simple stick means nothing  At a park, a Jewish woman’s dog and a Palestinian woman’s dog start fighting over this stick and it suddenly becomes a symbol for their ongoing rivalry At the very end of the story, after so much has happened that we've forgotten about the stick, one dog quietly gives it to the other the stick now symbolizes respect and reconciliation; the dogs may symbolize the two cultures)

Short Fiction Unit


Fiction Example

Class Note or Activity

Writing Folder

Mining for Stories

Withers’s Minefields,

Big Fish

Which is the lie?

Select and write answers to at least 10 of “Questions for Memoirists”

Settings & Leads

The Falling Girl

- Falling Girl Qs orally

-“Writing interesting leads” (Aker)>with a partner, select one of the 3 to write a 3- sentence-only lead with.

Establish a vivid setting in your opening paragraph using details for all 5 senses and the 2nd person POV; end by thrilling us with a detailed sentence that contrasts jarringly with the setting and mood you’ve established (e.g. from peaceful or romantic to horrific). This last line isn’t the ending–it’s a hook to make us read further if you had contined


The Explosion in the Parlour
The Snob

Good Morning Sunshine> In groups of three, select one line of the story to turn into a secret source of tension that could be developed further. Beginning with that line, write ¾ page of largely dialogue, escalating into a full conflict ending when one leaves

“Deal With It!” Start with the action and deal with it by the end with no flashbacks: resolutions (a) A gets what he wants, but at a cost; (b) B gets what he wants but at a cost; (c) Both get what they want but at a cost; (d) Neither get what they want but something else is gained

OR (2) “The Unwanted Visitor:” a skeleton creeps out from the closet: conflict starts immediately when the visitor from this character's past enters into their very different present



Aker’s “Details that create vivid characters.” With a partner, using only name, object, action and dialogue, write a character description that comes off the page

“Fish Out of Water” – establish your character by putting him/her at odds with the environment

and using at least three character aspects from Aker

OR “Why Is A Doing B?” Select an A(Occupation) and B(Activity) card. You may use the result as beginning, climax, or ending, but it must be at the heart of the plot and conflict of your story

Structure and Tone

Looking for a Rain God
(The Grass Eaters)

-Aker’s “Responsible Ending” challenge (are any?) following “Stories You Want to Avoid”

-Short short fiction Qs (Simone, etc)

The Modern Fairytale: in less than 2 pages, tell a tale with action and dialogue only. In it, your modern-day character sets out on a purposeful quest (a sick mother, a job…) in modern surroundings and meets with a major obstacle. A supernatural, morally ambiguous character in plain clothes offers a solution. The ending may be an interesting twist.

Theme/ The Change


The Other Wife

-Film assignment Qs

-Aker’s “The Change in a story” activity

“The Power Shift:” focus on 2 main characters who may appear to, but don’t really get along. Begin with A being in control/having the power somehow, but culminate with a turn of events or revelation that shifts the control ironically to B

Showing vs. Telling

Emilie Plead Choose One Egg

-Oral Qs

-Aker handout (#2)

“Showing:” Place your character in a situation that may be pleasing or unpleasant and write a paragraph-length passage describing the situation, revealing in some way how she/he feels. Use any 3 of Aker’s “showing” tips in your passage. Then briefly explain which 3 you have attempted and how.

Point of View

Bigfoot Stole My Wife

-Oral Qs, Aker on POV

“What happened to his wife”-With a partner, briefly re-tell the scene of his arrival home and his wife’s absence from an omniscient POV, exploiting the benefits of this POV to give us the real story



Oral Qs, Irony note

The power shift: the person who has or appears to have the least power at the beginning of the conflict ends with the most


The Blue Jar, The Elephant

Oral Qs, Symbolism note

Write a story in which you create a context-specific symbol whose meaning changes in three ways

Evaluation (*approximate and subject to change)

  • Writing Folder (creative fiction: )

    • Formative assessment (for assignment criteria only) of all writing activities= 10 x approx. 10 = /100

    • 1 Revised selection for summative assessment from among all = /100

  • Formal Oral Discussion (formal oral presentation: )

    • Of the above activities, “Good Morning Sunshine” and “Character Shown Not Told” will be presented by everyone= 2 x 20 = /40

  • General Oral Response & Discussion (class/homework: )

    • This will be averaged on a per student basis as in every unit and based on the objectives and activities outlined for the unit

  • Class/Homework Discussion (class/homework: )

    • This will be averaged on a per student basis as in every unit, based on the responses to stories that we read that day or read the previous class

  • Short Written Assignments (short written assignments: )

    • Of the center column activities above, ? and ? will be submitted for summative assessment= 2 x 10=20

  • Test (tests & quizzes: )= /60


Writing Folder:

    • Formative assessment of 5 instead of 10 writing activities

    • Exceptionalities taken into account when using “Creative Rubric,” particularly concerning quantity and quality of specific detail, depth of issue, development of plot, organization, and mechanics

    • Opportunity to re-do an evaluated assignment for a completely new grade

    • Homework may be submitted in writing, before the bell commencing the period during which it’s due, if the student has issues expressing answers orally—I have generally found the reverse to be the problem

Shorter Class Work and Oral Activities

    • Some shorter activities that other students present orally may be submitted in writing, particularly if the student was/is seeking resource help when the activity was/is completed by the rest of class. This allows more time and assistance for optimal success and less pressure from peer observation

Tests & Quizzes:

  • Questions of a particularly high order may be removed or re-stated

  • Answers may be scribed with assistance if needed

  • Dictionaries and certain notes may be used ]


*Alter Category Weights as Needed/Desired by Subject or Teacher
















THOUGHT: Beneath the surface, universal themes or issues are presented in a way that shows imagination, depth of reflection, and an attempt to connect with others







DETAIL & VOCABULARY: Concrete, relevant and significant; language ‘paints a picture’ and adds to mood, setting, conflict & character








- Grabs and holds reader

- Sense of conflict or action

- Plot or central idea is well-


- Ending is striking, ironic

and/or satisfying







matters of choice:

- Sentence variety and

phrasing used as a tool to

impact tone and audience

- Use of stylistic devices

(metaphor, simile…)

- Point of view/narrative

perspective is well-chosen

and consistent

- Meets any special criteria

of assignment








- Evidence that this draft results from thoughtful revision of the original in the above categories







MATTERS OF Correctness:

- Capital usage

- Spelling

- Tense usage

- Punctuation

- Proper sentences

- Phrasing

- Handling of quotations/dialogue







Total: /100

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