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Donna Oja Smith's English Class at Trenton High School


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UNIT 1 STORY PROJECT:  Write a short story to read to the class on “story day.”   Review “Questions to Answer and Issues to Consider” before, during, and after writing your story.


Step 1:  Think about what makes a great story for you?  What do the stories you like have in common?

Step 2:  Prewrite = Plan.  Your story must have a message (theme); decide on that first.  Create a character map for your main character(s).  Create a story map.  Once you have a map, you’ll have a better idea of how to get where you want to go!

Step 3:  Begin writing your first draft.   [Your first draft will never be the final draft! Revise/Edit/Revise/Edit until you are proud of your story and anxious to share it with the class!]


Try to Hook the Reader Immediately by Doing One of the Following:

Begin a story in the middle of a conversation.

·         “If you don’t put that away right now, you and I are gonna have problems,” Carla snarled as Janet scribbled in her writer’s notebook. Janet stared at her round face, squinting eyes, and muscular arms crossed in front of her chest for just a second, snarled right back at her, and continued to write furiously. All the other students around the playground were quiet.

·         “Just who do you think you are?” Mrs. Fleming asked as April slammed her notebook on the desk.


Begin with a description:

·         Millie’s face turned red when she entered the room. Stapled on the walls all around were pictures of her. There she was holding the first place trophy high above her head after her team won the state basketball tournament. Above the dresser was a poster-size photograph of her eighth grade graduation; she was standing proudly at the podium delivering her class president’s speech. To the left of the door was a collage of all her school pictures dating back to first grade, her gap-toothed smile framed by her dark face and tangled brown hair. How had someone she had never seen before created such a monument in her honor?

·         Jason’s house was a lot like a museum. There were pretty, breakable objects everywhere and you weren’t allowed to touch a thing.


Begin with background information (exposition):

·         Kevin was accustomed to being first. Since he had started track, a sixth grader on the high school team, he had always been a champion.

·         As long as she could remember, Kentyra’s name had always been mispronounced by the teacher on the first day of school.


Begin with a peek into a character’s mind:

·         Not this time, you won’t, I thought as I stood there staring into my father’s eyes. I picked up the basketball and began to dribble with my left hand.

·         How could things have gone so wrong? I asked myself, as I looked out over a sea of laughing faces.


Start with a startling statement:

When I was little, I would think of ways to kill my daddy. (Ellen Foster)


Start with a question:

What would you do if you were standing in the mall one day minding your own business, when suddenly, the girl who you knew you would spend your whole life with . . . the girl who makes your heart beat like the drumming in Metallica’s best songs . . . the woman whose fingers Teaching the Short Story 19 could crush you like a bug or hold you like a delicate flower . . . walks by? What would you do if you had never seen her before and did not even know her name?  You would do what I did, turn red in the face and tell your posse to quit starin’.


Begin with a quote from a song, movie, famous person or book:

·         David stared at the poster through the store window. It was a sketch of a man. “Nothing can be loved or hated until it is first understood” was written below the picture, with the name Leonardo DaVinci. If only his parents would follow that DaVinci’s advice.

·         “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” Kevin spun in circles as he listened to his older brother’s old R.E.M. record in the basement. In a time like this, the lyrics seemed particularly suitable.




Questions to Answer or Issues to Consider


1. Have you created a round/dynamic character to serve as your protagonist? Explain how your protagonist is “well-rounded”; how does he or she “change” in the story?


2. Discuss at least three ways you have revealed your character. Does your character seem realistic because you are “showing” them or do you “tell” your character to the reader? (In other words, are you using direct or indirect characterization?)




3. What kinds of conflicts appear in your short story?


4. What is the point of view of your short story?


5. Draw a story hill on the back just like the one on the board and use it to briefly tell the plot of your story. Does your story seem really organized?


6. Do you slow down your climactic moment and describe it with such detail that it comes to life? Are there more details you could add to your climactic moment?


7. Write out two examples of similes, metaphors, or personification you use in your story.


8. Did you describe the setting with good sensory details?


9. Does your story start out right in the action? (In other words, does the lead hook the reader?)  If not, how did you hook the reader right away?


10. Does the ending of your story tie everything together or have some sense of reflection that leaves the reader thinking about your story and its meaning?


11. What is the title of your short story? Does it hook the reader or is it a very general title that is a boring cliché?


12.  Did you use dialogue (required)?


If you had trouble answering these questions, then your short story could possibly be missing some important ingredients to make it successful. Figure out if there are things you could do to add these things to your story.


FOR HELP:               



"He who learns but does not think is lost! 
He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger!" 
Confucius 551-479 B.C. (Chinese philosopher)


"YOU make choices, but  CHOICES make you." (DOS)
“Men are not prisoners of fate, but prisoners of their own minds.” (FDR)