Unit 3: The Short Story

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Unit Goal:

In this unit, writers will implement the elements of creative fiction to write vivid short stories. As a community of writers, we will strive to write interesting works of short fiction by reading work across a broad spectrum of content and form, and from this learn how to read these pieces both as a scholar and as a creative writer.  At the end of the unit, authors will produce a collection of short stories that engages the reader with interesting plots and conflicts, characterization, clear tone and mood conveyed through precise voice and vivid imagery.

Essential Questions:

  • How do we use the writing process and peer feedback to revise our writing?
  • How can we use our experiences or memories as material for our writing?
  • How can we use our writing to help us better understand the world?
  • How can we use our knowledge of genre, character, structure, setting, plot, conflict, etc. to reach our readers?
  • How do we express ourselves in a creative and original way?

Unit Terms: 

fiction, genre, plot, imagery, details, character, conflict, characterization, tone, mood, theme, feedback, revision


Exercise A: Pre-writing Reading from The Zen of Writing

Objective: Writers will close read and respond ideas about the importance of writing presented in the Preface of Ray Brandbury’s The Zen of Writing.

Exercise B: Stories seeking an author

Exercise C: Images Seeeking a Plot

Objective: After reading to an excerpt from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, students will explore the importance of memory as raw creative material by responding to “I don’t know why I remember” prompt.  

Handouts: Student Sample, Mentor Text from from East of Eden

Exercise D: Characters want something, so… Part 1 Plot

Objective: After reading Christopher Isherwood’s “Goodbye Berlin” students will notice the importance of point of view and render vivid details to describe a scene without trying to explain or interpret it as material for Creative Nonfiction piece.

Handouts:Handouts: Creative NonFiction Exercises A-C, Writer’s Confession by Junot Diaz, I am a camera

Exercise E: Characters want something because… Part 2 Character Profiles

Objective: To elicit fresh and surprising insights into your relationship to family, friends, community, and the world.

Handouts: Ian McEwan’s Advice for Aspiring Writers,

Exercise F: I Want to Know Why

Objective: Identify interesting gaps in your understanding or knowledge in order to generate raw material for short stories.

Handouts: How to tell if you’re a writer, John Iriving, Student Sample

Exercise G: Where I’m From Story

Objective:  The exercise will help writers identify important characters from inner circle of friends and background characters that reveal a sense of place.

HandoutsCisneros on Search for Place and Fiction, Mentor text, Student Samples

Exercise G:  Where I’m From Poem

Objective:  This exercise will help elicit fresh and surprising insights into your relationship to friends, neighborhood, and community.

Handouts: Where I’m from by George Ella Lyon, Where Im From, Student Samples