short stories

This year, in order to solve the mysteries in each of the creepy short stories we’re reading, you’ll need to use the clues you collect through NOTICING and NOTING to think critically about your findings. You will be collecting your text clues and presenting them as evidence to me, your lieutenant. Any investigator who “solves” the mystery or the crime in each case or story, will be awarded a promotion.

Your notes will serve as your evidence. Solving the case without evidence is not possible.

Welcome to: SHORT STORY INVESTIGATIONS: 7th grade English or SSI:ELA7

First, we’ll read a short story by Roald Dahl called “The Landlady” in order to practice Noticing and Noting as “short story investigators”.

While we read, please NOTICE and NOTE 2-3 of the following strategies
-Contrasts and Contradictions (CC)
-Again and Again (AA)
-Memory Moment (MM)

and maybe an A-ha (AHA)

Remember, don’t just NOTICE them by marking or highlighting them, but then NOTE your thoughts at that moment!

Francis” by Dave Eggers as mentor text
Notice It / Try It 
Watch the short film, and notice specific phrases and words you liked (in the text version).
Be ready to discuss them briefly after the film, and then commit to trying 1-2 in today’s writing.

After reading through “The Open Window” one time for homework, re-read it one more time today in class, silently on your own. Make any additional notes for AA and MM as you think necessary. This should take about 8-10 minutes.

Afterward, answer the following questions with the person directly next to you. Please work in pairs, but each student should write his/her own answers.

Head your paper “The Open Window” discussion questions. Make sure your name is on it. You will hand it in before leaving class.

1. How is the word “romance” used in the last line of the story? What does it mean in this case?
2. What does that tell us about Vera and her stories?
3. What is your opinion of Vera after reading and re-reading the story?
4. How does she use memories (MM) to mislead Framton Nuttel?
5. Why is so much emphasis put on the open windows? Why is it used AA?
6. How does Vera fabricate or create another memory at the very end of the story to explain Framton’s quick exit?

Next, watch this short film version of the story.

Then finally, answer these last questions, also with your partner.
7. How does the film compare to the story? What did the makers of the film add to the story?
8. Is this how you pictured the story as you read?
9. Did Vera seem more innocent in the film than you imagined when you read the story?

“The Most Dangerous Game” – get text of story here

“The Most Dangerous Game” — AUDIO

Simpsons parody of “The Most Dangerous Game”

Now try creating your own SUPER SHORT STORY! or piece of FLASH FICTION!
When drafting your own short story, take after Vera from “The Open Window” and LIE a bit or exaggerate to add detail.
Good stories, like good lies, include specific, quality details.
Your readers will believe your story, whether it is true or not, if you include a few VERY SPECIFIC details to fool your audience.

If a story feels real to the reader or seems believable, it will ring true to them, and be a better story.

Some tips for beginning liars/writers:
1. You shouldn’t make everything up. Pull some details from real life, from something that happened to your cousin, or that you read about in the paper. Believe it or not, this is how stories usually get started. An author hears some strange true story, and starts thinking, “And then what? And then what?” — trying to come up with the background, imagining the scene, etc.

2. Elaborate on those few true details and spin them or develop them until they are extremely interesting, yet believably specific. Your reader should be able to HEAR, SEE, TASTE, TOUCH, SMELL the descriptions in your piece.

Emulate or mimic the short stories we’ve just read by including:

-about 2 pages, double-spaced, typed, 10-12 pt. font
-a tight plot with NOTHING extra or unnecessary
-lots of imagery including all FIVE senses in sensory details
-some sort of suspense, tension or something unexpected to keep your reader interested and reading until the end, built through the use of 2-3 of the following: foreshadowing, AA, purposeful withholding of information/breadcrumb trails, need for inference in endings
-NO cliches
-a focus on specific, exquisite, juicy word choice and quality details
-at least 2 lit. devices (except cliches) and 1 vocabulary word