The common structure of a short story can be broken down to the eight point ark. Here tis:
He explains that every classic plot passes through these stages and that he doesn’t tend to use them to plan a story, but instead uses the points during the writing process:
I find [the eight-point arc] most useful as a checklist against which to measure a work in progress. If I sense a story is going wrong, I see if I’ve unwittingly missed out a stage of the eight-point arc. It may not guarantee you write a brilliant story, but it will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of a brilliant idea gone wrong.
So, what do the eight points mean?
This is the “every day life” in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.
Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.
The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.
This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.
Watts emphasises that surprises shouldn’t be too random or too predictable – they need to be unexpected, but plausible. The reader has to think “I should have seen that coming!”
At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.
In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.
In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.
The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.
For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.
The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realise that the bully no longer has any power over him; Cinderella might be recognised by the prince.
Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for no reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.
The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.
(You can always start off a new story, a sequel, with another trigger…)
Here is a worksheet that we'll talk about while we analyze structure. You can download it here!
Here's a short interview with author Stephen King (Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption, The Stand), he gives you an idea of what he does when he writes...
Here is another structure that is more basic. We will discuss both in class!
Plotting a Short Story
The Five Elements of Plot Structure
1. Exposition: The Beginning
Every story must have a beginning. The start, or exposition, is where the characters and setting are established. During this part of the novel, the conflict or main problem is also introduced.
2. Rising Action: Introduction of the Problem or Conflict
After the characters and main problem have been established, the main problem or conflict is dealt with by some kind of action. In this part of the story, the main character is in crisis. This is the place for tension and excitement. The complication can arise through a character's conflict with society, nature, fate, or a number of themes. In this part of the story the main character is aware a conflict has arisen and takes some kind of step to battle this crisis.
3.Climax: The High Point
The climax is the high point of the story. It is the main event or danger that the character faces. This is the darkest moment, the worst challenge the character must oppose. At this point it looks as if the character will fail, and will never get what he/she wants. The turning point may be either physical or emotional. In a romance, the girl may turn the hopeful lover down, in an action story, the character may be surrounded by enemies with no chance of escape.
4. Falling Action: Winding Down
Following the climax, the story begins to slowly wind down. Falling action, one of the two final story elements, shows the result of the actions or decisions the character has made. This eventually leads to the final part of the novel, the crisis resolution.
5. Resolution: The End
The resolution, also often called denouement, which is French for "to untie" or "unraveling", is the conclusion of the story. Here, the conflicts are resolved, all loose ends are tied up, and the story concludes with either a happy or sad ending.
Kurt Vonnegut on wrting a successful short story!
Taking Notes on a Text: 18/2-22/2
When you are breaking down a text for study, you should take a sheet of A4 paper and divide it in two. On one side, divide it into chapters and on the other "characters".
• Dot point major events • Note descriptions of all new characters.
• Introduction of themes.
• Plot points.
• Include page numbers.
Include important quotes!
Here's a good video on three different techniques of note taking!
One of the things you'll have to do in senior school is plan your time, otherwise you'll get buried with work! You should be doing at least 1 hour a night at Year 10. Two hours for Year 11 and 2-3 hours for year 12(VCAA recommendations). I've found a wonderful excel planner for planning your week. Here tis!
Homework for the week of 22/2:
Finish notes of "Minority Report" Text for Test.
Watch Videos on note taking from this site.
Work for 25/2- 30/2.: Oral Report Persuasive Presentation
We are finishing the final drafts of our short story. ALL final drafts are due on Friday!!!!
Starting next week we will be working on an oral report structured as an argumentative essay. We will also using ECHO in the library. ECHO helps you access resources and articles for your project.
Here's a little video on how you can minimize the nerves you might have before a presentation. I find some of this advice to be of help!
Persuasive Essay Structure
Now for those of you that have finished your short story, your "point of view" oral report will be written using persuasive essay structure. I've included here a video introducing persuasaive structure, which is one of the absolutely necessary skills for VCE English. Have a look at this video on persuasive essays:
"Looking For Allibrandi": Film Text Term 2
We'll be working on text essays and film technique using the Australian Film "Looking For Alibrandi". Here's the film:
First homework for this Unit is to complete the sheet I passed out in class. We will also be learning to write a text essay on a film. If you want to see a sample of some text essays...have a read here. This assignment is due Monday April 29th. Here are some questions to consider while you are watching the film.
Looking for Alibrandi - Study Notes Part 1 - (Part 1 - Part 2)
(courtesy Puffin Australia)
Josephine Alibrandi, a Catholic girl, narrates the novel in her final year of High school. She attends St Martha's, a wealthy catholic school in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Her academic scholarship ensures her place at the school as she is not as well off as the population of largely wealthy Anglo-Celtic girls that attend the school. Her Italian origin has been the reason for much persecution toward her in her life. Her background against the monied origins of her peers also provides much source of angst for Josie.
She lives in the inner-city suburb of Glebe with her single mother, who takes care of her. Their rather small dwelling is the source of some embarrassment for Josie.
Josie is essentially on a journey of discovery throughout the novel. This journey reveals much about herself, her family and the many lessons that she is yet to learn in her life. Her search for her own cultural identity is coupled with her struggle as a poor student among many wealthy ones.
Josephine also has a number of self-esteem issues that manifest themselves throughout the novel in her perceptions of the world. These issues are further complicated by her family situation. Issues that are dealt with include:
Role of The Family
Josie is searching to discover the true nature of her family history. She comes to learn that much of what she has been told in incorrect. A number of issues that both she and her mother deal with are explained by some of her family circumstances.
Her grandmother, father and mother all have a significant amount to teach her about herself and about herself. Each in their own way has the power to impart some personal experience that will assist Josie in her journey. She does come to learn, however, that these realisations can do much harm. Overall, however, her journey in regard to her family is a cathartic experience that solves many issues she was forced to deal with.
Josie's father, Michael Andretti, has only recently come back into life. He is introduced to us in Chapter six. While Josie's mother was still pregnant he left Sydney for Adelaide. He return comes with the assertion that he does not "want a complication in his life" and again he seems to be deserting Josie. She confronts him about this, and his attitude does not win her affection. It seems that Michael cannot provide to Josie what she needs - a stable father figure that might help her to make sense of her own identity and unique set of circumstances.
However, later in Chapter 8, Michael comes to her aid and she feels proud to have him walk alongside her. Josie has long craved this feeling and her father finally provides it to her. Their relationship continues to grow stronger throughout the novel, and he tells her that "If I had to choose a daughter, I would have chosen you". This remark, combined with his attitude seems to reaffirm his postion is her life. He proposes that she comes live with him in Balmain and that she becomes his adopted daughter. She is prepared to consider a name change, yet her journey of discovery dictates that she cannot leave her mother and live with Michael. He provides only part of the answer in her journey, and she realises that she cannot desert her mother.
Josie's grandfather, Francesco had a unique situation with his wife - Josie's "Nonna". Being from Italy (the old country), it was customary for arranged marriages to be set up by ones parents. This is the situation that "nonna" found herself in. However, she committed adultery, and had a child that was not fathered by Francesco. This child was Josie's mother, and Francesco always resented her. While Josie never met him, she was aware of the coolness between her mother and him, and of the unusual situation between him and her grandmother.
This realisation of Josie's leads her to question the moralistic teachings of her grandmother, considering her sinful past. Josie views this as hypocrisy on the part of her grandmother, however we the readers are left to wonder if nonna's hypocrisy is a way of making up for her past sins, and a way of easing the pain of her failed marriage and the problems that have occurred in her family as a result. Josie comes to realise that many family situations tend to be passed from generation to generation and that her mother is not to blame entirely for her own situation.
While Josie does make a great many discoveries about her family situation, she still remains unaware of many of the hardships that her mother had faced in her own life. Josie reacts badly to her mother seeing a man, and we can see that she still has much to learn. A journey of discovery inevitably involved ones family, and the issue that one discovers can often be painful as much as cathartic. This is because many of the issues open up wounds that may have otherwise not been disturbed.
Looking for Alibrandi - Study Notes Part 2 - (Part 1 - Part 2)
Josie's family is part of the Italian community in Sydney. Her grandmother settled in Australia with Francesco, a man that was 15 years older than she was and with whom she had been forced into a marriage with. When they did reach Australia, the way that the Australian women behaved and their attitudes to men shocked Josie's grandmother.
Josie understands that her Nonna's early years were fraught with difficulty and loneliness, as she was isolated from what she had known. Josie in her discovery comes to find a parallel between certain parts of her life and that of her grandmothers. Her insecurities are essentially those of her grandmother.
The traditions of the Italian community have refused to die in Josie's family and she often questions some of the particular on-going ways. She says "culture is nailed into you so deep you can't escape it". Josie's journey of discovery essentially teaches her not to be ashamed of who she is, and to cherish the old ways of family. She comes to the realisations that her Nonna is too old to adopt new habits, and that she be appreciated for who she is. Josie realises that her Nonna went through a number of trying experiences that were not completely her own doing. In some sense she understands that fate and external factors have as much to do with the way that we live our lives as our own decisions do.
Josie, however in her journey of discovery fails to make a complete understanding of tolerance of others. When she overhears a girl at her school complain about "wogs" she breaks her nose. This act demonstrates that Josie does not understand that the Anglo girls have also inherited much tradition, good and bad, from their parents. Parents who knew an Australia that was predominantly white have influenced the Anglo girls at the school. Only since the 1950's has Australian become the multicultural society that it is today. The girls who make racist statements are only learning this behaviour from their parents.
The journey of discovery teaches us that while we make our own decisions in life, we are also victims of fate. Nonna, Josie, her family and the girls at the school are all affected by external factors beyond their control. The influence of our parents, friends and our culture will shape who we are as much as what we choose to do.
In her interaction with others, Josie meets a range of people with their varied standing in the social order of Sydney. Jacob Coote is local boy who lives in Redfern and goes to a Government high school. We are also introduced to John Barton, the school captain at a wealthy Catholic high school. He is also the son of a politician. In meeting these two individuals, Josie comes to discovery the class barriers that exist in society and the differences between these different groups. She comes to see the differences and the similarities between her life and that of the two boys.
John has great expectation placed upon him by his family and suicide seems to only way out for him. His death is an important part of Josie's discovery process as she comes to realise that while she is poor, she is also free to pursue any sort of life that she wants. John's life, however, was pre-ordained and he had to die in order to achieve his emancipation.
Josie comes to see a number of contrasts in Jacob. He is tough yet sensitive and loves him family. These contradictions are mirrored in the Italian community where a woman must wear black after her husband dies, however he is allowed to remarry. Josie would like to be in love with John and to have people look at her with envy, however it is Jacob that she is attracted to.
Her discovery helps her to realise who her true friends are. Josie does learn later in the novel that she is the most popular girl in the school after she is votes school captain. This comes as a shock as her social standing was something that she worried about.
Topic Area - Discovery
Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
Looking for Alibrandi is the story of Josie Alibrandi's experiences at school, and her relationships with friends and family during her last year at St Martha’s girls’ school. In the year that the novel is set, her father comes back into her life, the year she falls in love and discovers the secrets of her family's past.
Josie tells us the story of her struggles with her Italian-Australian identity and the highs and lows of teenage life. It’s the story of a young girl who feels she doesn’t belong. As the novel unfolds, she learns to cope with these feelings of insecurity and learns that everyone has similar feelings at different times.
Looking for Alibrandi is an analysis of multi-cultural Australia and the struggles that each generation of immigrants has with finding their place in Australian society and defining their identity. Josie, Christina, Nonna Katia and in fact all of the characters have a story to tell about culture in Australian society.
The family unit has a profound influence on the individual. Students may consider the many ways it impacts on them. Rules, customs, religious beliefs, aspirations, income, environment, and many other factors are central to the experience of family.
Past, Present and Tradition
‘You can’t let the past rule your life’, declares Josie, yet for the Alibrandi women, especially Christina and Nonna, the past is a very powerful influence on the present.
Adaption of the Novel to the Screen
It may be of some educational use, and it will certainly be of interest for those of you studying this text to see the film adaptation of the novel. Below, are some comments from those people who worked on the film in regard to the difficulty in adapting the novel and preserving its insight and appeal beyond the printed page.
Director Kate Woods said of the novel:
‘It’s a beautiful story … I think the most important thing about it is that it is so unpatronising to the people it’s aimed at. I really wanted to capture that heart and that spirit so that every teenager who watches it can own it’.
Melina Marchetta wrote the novel and the screenplay. She says:
I remember when I got the opportunity [to write the screenplay] … I thought it would be a lot easier. I thought it would be a case of taking out the ‘he saids’ and ‘she saids’ and basically that would be it. I had to find a way of capturing moments with an image and sometimes a whole chapter went on just one image, that’s one of the thing I had to learn about, the difference between film and prose writing.
Music Costume & Setting
These are important elements in film as they work to involve the audience and increase understanding of characters.
The film’s production designer, Stephen Curtis, says:
The whole of Josie’s family life revolves around red and different kinds of red. So Nonna’s became a type of magnolia shade on the red scale. Throughout Christina’s house there were lots of pinks and reds, and Josie’s bedroom -- there was a lot of red in that room. I suppose the other side of it is, having established the warmth of Josie’s family life, the opposite of that was the school world. As soon as we went out to St Martha’s, Kate and I lived it, and all the cold colours were already there. The halls were all carpeted in different shades of blue/green, the stark ivory colored walls, the very dark wood -- I worked around those. The same with Michael Wilkinson -- that’s what motivated the teal blue school uniforms. So we could feel a very definite shift from the cool privilege of the Eastern suburbs and the warmth of the Western suburbs.
Michael Wilkinson, the costume designer, adds:
I guess the most important thing for me was that we were treading a line between ‘real’ costumes -- that didn’t feel like they had been super designed and had a bit of real soul, and a gritty reality to them -- but also to slightly push things so they made attractive screen images.
Producer Robyn Kershaw says:
It was essential for us to create a soundtrack that reflected and resonated with Josie’s world. So we were drawn to female voices and the energy and drive of Janet (from both Spiderbait and Happyland), Adalita (from Magic Dirt), Chrissie Amphlett (in collaboration with Dave Faulkner) and Cerys (from Catatonia).
Josephine - Is the narrator of the story. She relates events as if the are happening now, and she speeks directly to the reader. She presenters herself as misunderstood and dissatisfied in the begining of the novel. Her 'many problems' have accumulated in her head over the years and involves her hatred of being illegitamate, he hatred of Nonna, her frustrations with living in a Sicilian culture that has 'ridiculous rules and restrictions', and 'being stuck at a school dominated by rich people'. She believes
that no-one understands her and that in her family she has 'had it worst'. Josie has become a self-centred
and melodramatic adolescent who her friend Lee calls a 'snob'; who Nonna says is 'with out respect'; who Christina calls 'selfish and unreasonable'; and who Jacob describes as having ' the biggest mouth in Sydney'. This is our heroine. She is far from perfect, but she admitds that herself, and the readers perceptions of Josie are influenced by the way she reveals herself to us. Josie's idea of problem solving in the beginning of the story is to run. She wishes to leave behind the things that upset her. however, as Jacob points out, when you run, your problems go with you, and running simply causes more problems. Her problems begin to come into perspective for her during the year, so that half way through the text she can say: 'things that worried me a few months ago no longer worry me as much.'
Anna - is a typical slavic looking girl. She's a very nervous person and is afraid of getting the answer wrong in class. She stands like stunned mullet if guys approach her. Despite her good looks, she still hasn't been kissed. The readers don't really learn much about Anna.
Sera - is the most brazen person Josephine has ever met. She can look someone in the eye and lie her heart out. Sera can bitch about a person for three hours straight and then crawl to them. She has black roots and blonde hair. She's skinny and tends to dress in what the latest rockstar is wearing. Sera has never been without a boyfriend for more than a week. Her father thinks she's a virgin but he's dead set wrong. Sometimes Josephine really doesn't like Sera, but other times she makes her laugh. Josephine envies her because she's the stereotype of a wog, but she doesn't give a damn, she just gives the finger.
Lee - her main objective in life is to hang out with the wax heads, who think it's cool to come to school hungover. Nobody is allowed to go to her place. Lee and Josephine have a weird relationship. They pretend to have nothing in common but can talk for hours on any topic. They pretend to come from two different parts of society.
Jacob Coote - is the gorgeous school captain of Cook High School. he is a cheerful and likeable character with a sense of humour. He is intolerant of the opinions of others and set in his ways. The world, according to Jacob, is devided along class lines. He knows where he stands, and he has a negative view of anyone not standing in the same place as himself. He refers to John Barton as a bore and a wanker; Josie as a middle class snob, and the movie she wants to see is a pansy movie. What you see is what you get with Jacob.
Katia (Nonna) - Young, independent Sicilian 'gypsy' in the 1930's, and becomes the over protective and conservative grandmother in the 1990's. When she makes the journy from Italy, as the 17 year old bride of the domineering and jealous francesco Alabrandi, she leaves behind her family, friends, and all the good things associated with youthful freedom. She's isolated in a strange land, has no one except the older francesco, who, as she later tells Josie, 'treated me like one of his farm animals'. She is obsessed by the past and takes every opportunity to relate old stories and to share photoes with Josie.
Christina (mum) - when she becomes pregnant at age 16, she is cut off completely by Francesco. The reader can only imagine what she went through emotionaly and financially, trying toi support herself and a baby. She developes into an independent woman who tries to give Josie all she can and has provided her with a stable and loving homelife. She has a very good relationship with her daughter, quite unlike her own relationship with Katia and Francesco while she was growing up. Josie wonders if it was the lack of love at home that made her seek love with Michael Andretti.
Michael Andretti - Left Sydney at 16 or 17, thinking Christina would abort their child. Seventeen years later, when he comes face to face with his daughter, he is shocked into silence, then confused and angry about the situation. he later tells osie that he had alot of problems back then, and even if he had known about the pregnancy he may not have come back to help Christina. He appears as the independentm, successful and self-assured barrister, but the novel is a journey for him from this date of independence towards an increasing awareness of Josie's needs and his new status as a father. At first he says to Christina he wants nothing to do with Josie but when Christina tells him to go and forget them both, he doesn't.
Poison Ivy - School captain Ivy Lloyd belongs to the wealthy upper class that Josie aspires to at the beginning of the novel. She and Josie have been in an academic competition all through high school, with Ivy usualy coming out on top. Josie calls her a bore who is obsessed with school work. Sister Louise thinks Ivy is the model student who was chosen as the school captain because of her pro-school attitude and sense of responsability. She can loose her cool and lower herself to Josie's level in an argument.
Guide to Shot Structure in Movies.
We will also be looking at the components that make up a film. The first thing we'll look at are the structure of film shots and how they effect the meaning of a film text. Have a watch of this video.
In Robert Altman's "The Player" the story takes place in Hollywood and it's main character is a movie producer. Watch how the use of the camera (in ONE very long shot) establishes the world the character lives in. This starts as a full shot and becomes an establishing long shot. It creates the place and time the characters inhabit. What information do you find out during this shot? Can you think of a shot in "Alibrandi" that gives us information about the characters and their world?
What is Plot?
Here's a definition of "plot" from the website "Creative Writing Now". It, very simply defines what "plot" is in a narrative (story).
A story's plot is what happens in the story and the order it happens in.
For there to be story, something has to move, to change. Something goes from point A to point B.
This change could be:
A physical event (Point A=psycho killer is picking off everyone in town. Point B=police arrest the killer).
A decision (Point A=character wants to practice law like his father. Point B=character decides to be a ballet dancer).
A change in a relationship (Point A=They hate each other. Point B=They fall in love)
A change in a person (Point A=character is a selfish jerk. Point B=character has learned to be less of a selfish jerk.)
A change in the reader's understanding of a situation. (Point A=character appears to be a murderer. Point B=The reader realizes that character is actually innocent and made a false confession.)
This change could even be the realization that nothing will ever change. (Point A=your character dreams of escaping her small town. Point B=her dream escape is shown to be an hopeless.)
What is plot? It's the road map that takes your story from point A to point B.
Get it? The plot of a story is "what happens" and the order in which these events happen. You can't have a story without a plot.
Try This Exercise..
Now try this. Play the first 20 minutes of "Alibrandi". Use the structure for taking notes on text that I mentioned above. Divide your page with characters on one side and plot points on the other. Make a list of all the characters and what you learn about them. On the other side make a list of all major events at the start of the film. Continue this as you watch the film again. Also note any events that relate to the major themes of the text (family, belonging, class). Take note of any quotes from characters that may be useful in siting during an essay...you can use them later!
How do I structure a Text Essay?
The following videos give you a step by step guide on writing a text essay. Knowing how to construct these essays is ESSENTIAL to you doing well in VCE English next year. Watch this and TAKE NOTES on construction. We will be going over this in class!
Persuasive Language Techniques
Alliteration -Repetition of consonants at the start of words usually in headlines
-Creates humor, drama and helps audience remember a particular point
-Draws reader in
Anecdotes -Personal stories are more engaging
-Gives author more authority
-Reader believes author knows what they are talking about
-Can draw in sympathy
Rhetorical Questions -Do not require an answer
-Imply obvious answer, answers embedded in question
-Engages reader in thought
-Purely for effect
Attacks -Discredit opposition
-Draws in feelings such as anger and betrayal
-Makes authors POV more suitable
-Readers united with author vs. enemy
Emotive Language -Deliberate use of strong words carrying connotations
-Play on readers feelings
-Evoke strong emotional response such as anger, shock, etc
-Coerced to readers opinion
-Issue appears more significant than what it is
Emotional appeal (to hip-pocket, family, etc.)
-Can target finances, patriotism, values and beliefs
-People emotional respond when the above are threatened or targeted
-Fuels feelings of social responsibility
-Readers see that the author is on their side, not guided by self-interest as opposition
-Creates feeling of “us” vs. “them”
-Strengthens authors POV, makes their POV more suitable
Metaphoric Language -Comparisons help see connection and identify with a point of view
-May make the issue appear more significant than what it really is
Exaggerations/Overstatements/Hyperbole -Dramatically reinforce author’s POV
-Make the issue appear more significant and hazardous
-Emphasis on prominent points
-Leads audience to remember the particular points that are strengthens of the author’s POV
-Maybe be expert quotes, stats, figures, etc
-Suggests evidence agrees with author
-Create a sense of credibility
-Difficult to discredit thus only way is to accept it
-Statement that claims what is being said is true for all or majority of society
-Influences reader as only one general perspective is presented
-Short, worn-out expressions (clichés)
-Informal language (colloquialism)
-Can be used as an emotive contrast against other perspectives
-Can emotively evoke feelings of nostalgia
-Diverts attention away from main argument
-Can portray opposing view as if it were not of a serious nature, discredits the authencity and reliability of other views
Here's a video on Persuasive Language Techniques.