Man Against Self or Some Version of Self

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Rising Action

In section two of the tale, the reader/viewer moves into the Rising Action of the story. Usually, there is no clear boundary between exposition and rising action; rather, there is a gradual merging of the two — like crossing the divide between the coast and the mountains with a gradual indication that you are leaving one realm behind and entering another. In drama (be it print, theatrical, or film), on the other hand, the shifts between chapters/acts/scenes mark that transition. In this section of the story, complications emerge and eventually a dominant conflict becomes clear. The range of conflicts looks like this:

  1. In early literature, the conflicts were Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Self.
  2. As fiction evolved and psychological theories, technological advances, and urbanization occurred, the list expanded to include Man vs. Society, Man vs. Technology, and Man vs. Alter Ego. These emerging types were the result of many factors, but the theories of Freud and Jung, the Industrial Revolution, and the move from Agrarian to Industrial society were major factors.
  3. In the age of film, these others exist, but as the 20th century unfolded, the list expanded yet again. Today, we add Man vs. Alien Society, Man vs. Biotechnology, and Man vs. Cloned Self to bring the number of major types of conflict to at least nine (9). Modern film-goers have probably encountered all nine of these types. (Layne and Lewis)

Today’s Assignment:

1. Watch a movie. Select one character to study.

2. Fill in these two worksheets as you watch.

3. How does the basic plot structure intertwine with the character arc. (How does the character change over the course of the story?)

4. What is the nature of the conflict? (Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, etc.) Are there several conflicts?

The worksheets:

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For more on this lesson:

N.B. = Pay Attention

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There are many Latin abbreviations you should know:


The abbreviation N.B. stands for nota bene, which literally translates as “note well,” although in practice you can read it as “pay attention.” It is used in endnotes or footnotes to call the reader’s attention to a particularly important piece of information-such as a key assumption of or exception to an argument-that is nevertheless not crucial enough to be included in the main body of the paper. Also, notice that N.B. is the only Latin abbreviation that should be capitalized.

Example: N.B.: While all of the study participants were interviewed about their prior medical histories, researchers did not have access to their medical records to confirm the accuracy of self-reported data.

Today’s Assignment:

1. Review the abbreviations.

2. Give the meaning of each of the following: (click on the word Latin below for a pdf)








vs. or v.


et al.

ibid. and id.


loc.cit.and op. cit.

inf. and sc.



Don’t Neglect Your Character’s Spirituality

Graham Greene is an author you should be familiar with.

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“Graham Greene is perhaps the most perplexing of all the literary converts whose works animated the Catholic literary revival in the 20th century. His visions of angst and guilt, informed and sometimes deformed by a deeply felt religious sensibility, make his novels, and the characters that adorn them, both fascinating and unforgettable.” (Joseph Pearce)

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Read more about this author:

Today’s Assignment:

1. Worship.

2. Consider your character’s spiritual life.

A Novel Becomes Your Textbook

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A favorite novel can be the basis of a creative writing workshop or course.

First, select a novel for your group.

Second, “chunk it” — by assigning a set of pages to be read prior to each group meeting.

Third, discuss these pages with your group. Look closely at the details. This is like a verbal ‘close reading.’

—–What features do you see?

—–What works?

—–What doesn’t?

—–What aspects might you apply to your own work?


—Workshop a Novel


Use A Novel As A Textbook for Creative Writing:

1. Select the novel you wish the group to read.

2. Chunk into pages. Assign the pages to be read prior to each group meeting.

3. Discuss the novel as a group.

WRITE THE TITLE OF YOUR CHOSEN BOOK HERE:__________________________________________

Some possible questions:

What hooks you/the reader into the story?
Who is introduced in the first chapter? Are there too many characters introduced at once?

Is the setting obvious from the beginning? Does this help pace the story?

How does the amount of dialogue balance with the amount of action?
Does this author use long or short paragraphs and sentences?

Is there a question on the first page?

How varied are the dialogue tags? (“said,” “answered,” “whispered”) Does variation help or distract?
How is the writer showing a pause in dialog? By saying “she paused” or by inserting a non-dialogue paragraph?

Is internal dialogue shown in italics? Is there too much?
How is setting worked into the story as it progresses? Is the ‘reveal’ achieved at an effective pace?
Is there subtext going on? Are the characters thinking something different than what they’re saying?
Can you imagine yourself there?

When you get to the end of the book, was the question introduced in the first chapter answered?


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Tropes: Bad or Good?

Trope defined: A significant or recurrent theme, a motif

Some folks say a trope is an overused,  cliché theme, however,

a trope is often helpful in fulfilling reader/viewer expectations.

Consider the trope “ACTION MOM.”

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The universal nature of tropes help readers understand and relate to the story.

Today’s Assignment:

1. Look at the list of tropes.

2. Consider which tropes apply to your current work.

3. Which trope might you consider using in the future?

4. How would you define each character in your story?

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Your Internal Spell-Checker


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We should not rely too heavily on spell-checkers. We still need to learn to spell.

Here is a list of commonly misspelled words.

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(From Strunk and White’s Elements of Style)

While you SHOULD use your spell-checker before submitting an assignment, don’t forget to also practice spelling.

Today’s Assignment:

1. Study the word list above.

2. Have someone read the list to you while you write the words down or have a verbal spelling bee.

3. Run your computer spell-checker on your current work of fiction.

How Many Basic Plots Are There in the World?

As writers, we should know the answer to this question, right?

The answer, oddly enough, is that we should understand the question.

Tobias has written a great book to help us with this.

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He says:

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You can find this interesting book here:

Today’s Assignment:

1. Look at the different basic plots in the list below.

2. Where does your plot (or the plot in the book you are reading) fit?

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You may wish to read more on plots here:

(from ipl2)

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A Rough Draft is Not Wrong

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Maintaining the flow of creative juices is important.

Crushing the spirit with a harsh critique is not helpful.

Giving a bland mild review is also not useful.

The sensible option lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Many teachers use green rather than red ink.

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With creative writing it is best to critique a work with the attitude that revisions WILL be made.

Most authors revise their novels several times prior to publication.

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Never say, “I am just a student,” because someday you won’t be.

Today’s Assignment:

1. Read this article from Sara Grant:

2. Revise with a smile.

Keep It Simple

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Occam’s Razor (also Ockham’s Razor), is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham that forms the basis of methodological reductionism. It is nowadays usually stated as follows:

“Of two competing theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.”

This is similar to the K.I.S.S. theory (which means Keep It Simple, Stupid.)

How does this relate to teaching creative writing?

Use the aps and technological tools that students already have at their fingertips.

Collaborate. Teachers can teach students. Students can teach teachers.

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Today’s Assignment:

1. If you are a teacher, collaborate with your student(s).
2. If you are a student, collaborate with your teacher(s).
3. If you are not currently in a classroom situation, collaborate with a colleague.