West Chester University

Fall 2002

West Chester University

Spring 2002

Fall 2001





Course Information
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  Lit 165 Syllabus
  About the Instructor

Notes for Effective Writing I
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Writing Descriptively
  What Makes a Good Story?
  Building a Thesis
  Notes on 'Purpose'
  Strategies for Writing Introductions
  Strategies for Writing Conclusions
  Assignment #5: Argument
  Understanding Rational Argument

Notes for Introduction to Literature
  Fundamental Questions About Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Approaching Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Notes on Four Short Stories
  The Genesis of the Short Story
  Defining the Short Story
  The Art of the Short Story
  A Vocabulary for Fiction and Beyond
  Notes on Nathaniel Hawthorne
  Responding to 'The Birthmark'
  A Guided Reading of 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Bartleby--Questions for Analysis
  A Cultural Context for 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Study Guide for Fiction Exam
  Billy Collins - 'Introduction to Poetry'
  A Catalogue of Poems for Study
  Approaching a Definition of Poetry?
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry: Imagery
  Readings from 'The United States of Poetry'
  The Craft of Poetry: Sound
  The Craft of Poetry: Structure
  Lines of Continuity
  Study Guide for Poetry Exam
  The Birth of Drama
  On Tragic Character
  Stepping Through 'Oedipus the King'
  Analyzing 'Oedipus the King'
  The Relevance 'Oedipus'Today
  Study Guide for the Drama Exam

Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Announcements
  WRT 120 Assignments
  LIT 165 Announcements
  Lit 165 Assignments


Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Weblog for LIT 165
  Writing Assistance on the Web

Join an Online Forum
  WRT 120 Composition Forum
  LIT 165 Introduction to Literature Forum


~~ What Makes a Good Story? ~~

Your answers to the question "What makes a good story?" took some interesting turns.

Here's a summary of the different kinds of things you all said:

  1. A good story should be "descriptive." Description refers to the detail a writer uses to convey vivid mental images in readers' minds about the people, places and things in the story. You gave some thought to the kinds of detail you might want to use and the amount. Sensory detail, figurative imagery (metaphors, similes, personification, etc.) are all welcome kinds of detail. (I would add—try to use specific, concrete, connotative words whenever possible, too). Too much irrelevant detail can detract from the story you're telling by becoming a distraction (or worse, a bore). A good story has good descriptive detail, but the writer is really careful to SELECT the right detail that will illuminate the point of the story for the reader. (For example, how does Gary Soto get his readers to "relate" to an experience the large majority of them will never have had?)
  2. A good story is interesting, captivating, engaging, entertaining, funny, realistic, romantic, something a reader can relate to. As you can see, there are all kinds of readers and many different expectations along this line. But one thing is clear: readers enjoy going for the ride, whatever kind of ride it turns out to be. That means paying attention to story qualities like action, pacing, suspense. A story that builds towards its ending is usually a satisfying one. Try making your paper build to its conclusion. Readers also like having some things left to their own imagination and interpretation. Don't feel like you have to explain everything if the action has spoken for itself.
  3. A good story is coherent. It has an order, maybe a chronological one (like "Black Hair" or "An American Childhood"), or maybe an arrangement of materials that together create a dominant impression (like "In the Kitchen"). You said a good story should "make sense," have a "flow," and be easy to read.
  4. A good story makes a point. Readers want to be clear about the point of a story by the time they finish reading. Even if you let the point of the story be implicit (as in "Black Hair" or "In the Kitchen") rather than stating it directly (as in "An American Childhood"), you should have a firm idea of the point you want to make by the time you're polishing your final draft.

That's a good start!






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