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West Chester University

Spring 2006 and Fall 2005

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Fall 2004and
Spring 2005

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Course Syllabi and Announcements
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
  A Reading of THE TEMPEST

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
  Goals of the Course
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Valuing Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Literature as ART
  Ambiguity
  Approaching the Art of Fiction
  Defining the Short Story
  Evaluating Short Fiction
  Craft of Fiction: PLOT
  Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
  Small Group Exercise
  ARABY by James Joyce
  WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates
  Our RITES OF PASSAGE Theme
  A note about GIRL
  POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
  THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
  YOUNG MAN ON SIXTH AVENUE
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
  Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
  Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
  LITERARY SYNTHESIS PROJECT
  Defining Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry
  Drama and Tragedy
  Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
  Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
  Selecting Information
  Evaluating Arguments
  CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
  Approaching Persuasive Writing
  Topic Development - Profile Essay
  Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
  Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
  Profile Exercise
  Analyzing THE FIVE BEDROOM, SIX FIGURE ROOTLESS LIFE
  Objective Writing: Selected Readings
  Writing Workshop: Paper #1
  Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
  Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
  Paper #1: IDENTITY
  Expressive Writing
  Open Letter Exercise and Examples
  EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Literature related to IDENTITY
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
  Analyzing WAITING FOR GODOT
  Approaching WAITING FOR GODOT
  Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
  Paper #4: Independent Project
  The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
  UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA Links
  Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
  From today's news (11/3/05)
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
  Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
  INFERNO: Structure
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
  INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
  A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Notes on LEAF BY NIGGLE
  Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
  ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
  Notes on Axolotl
  Reading Ovid's Tales
  From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
  Notes on THE EYE OF THE GIANT
  Functions of the Genesis Tales
  Analyzing Mythic Tales
  Defining Mythology
  Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
  Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
  Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
  Handout: Imagination Poems Set
  What is Imagination?
  Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
  LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
  LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
  Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
  Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
  Casebook Preparation Checklist
  Casebook Assignment Schedule
  Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
  Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
  Notes on Rational Argument
  Argument
  Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
  Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
  Writing the Profile Essay
  Readings: Objective Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  About SKIN DEEP
  Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Mind-map: Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Assignments Page
  Announcements Page
  WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005

ENG Q20: Basic Writing

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

 
The Craft of Short Fiction: CHARACTER
 

CHARACTER
simply refers to the people in a work of fiction, but beyond this simple definition, there are more complex ways of thinking about and responding to the characters in a fictional work. Many of you said that a good short story has characters you can “identify with” and “relate to,” and I agree with you that these are the first things we probably notice.  But some of the best, most memorable characters that we encounter in reading literature are the ones that we least relate to or identify with, the ones who seem completely different than us, who baffle and bewilder us.  We walk away from these characters surprised, amazed, shocked, or incredulous.  They are interesting and sometimes memorable to us precisely because we don’t exactly identify with them or relate to them.  It’s probably a good idea to remember that these strange or uncanny characters can be just as fascinating and provocative as the ones we fully understand and relate to.  


Readers want characters that engage them, and whether that means people they can recognize or people they are meeting for the first time, the important thing is that the characters in a story make you feel something.  Making you care about their characters is one of the biggest responsibilities a writer has, because if the characters flop, the story is probably going to be disappointing.  Characters are weak when readers don’t care about them at all.  If as a careful, sensitive reader you become  apathetic or bored with a character, that may signal an important failure.

In your thinking about character, try to create space for the ones that you can’t relate to or identify with.  Try instead to observe character as closely as you can; notice the motivations, the behaviors, the traits that make this person tick, that make this person individual.  One of the distinguishing features of the modern short story (as opposed to older forms of narrative like the legend or the tale) is that its characters are psychologically complex individuals rather than “types.”  A really excellent short story will not rely on stereotype or formula to develop a main character, although minor characters may sometimes strike you as types because they are not as fully developed as the main character.    

Here’s a brief vocabulary for discussing “character”:

  • Protagonist/Antagonist.  The protagonist is the leading character and the antagonist is an opposing force (sometimes a character, but not always; “poverty,” for example, may be an antagonist, or “old age”).  The protagonist is often the most psychologically complex of any of the characters in the story.  One famous exception (although this is epic poetry, not short fiction): Satan is the most complex character in Paradise Lost.
  • Round/Flat character.  A round character has a fully developed, multi-dimensional, multi-faceted personality.  Usually the protagonist, the main character is the round character in the story. A flat character, by contrast, is one-dimensional in that you may only get to see one side of his or her personality.  
  • Dynamic/Static character.  A dynamic character is someone who grows and changes during the course of the story.  Usually the main character is a dynamic character (but not always); the point of the story might be to reveal this change.  A static character, by contrast, is someone who does not measurably change much during the course of the story. It’s rare for a main character to be static, but one example that comes to mind is Phoenix Jackson in “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty.  Phoenix is a 95 year-old grandmother caring for her grandson on her own.   She must make an arduous trip over a mountain ridge into town to get him medicine.  Her journey is an obstacle course of barriers—everything from senility, to exhaustion, to blindness, to racism—but NOTHING can stop her.  She is determined to complete the trip. That nothing can puncture her courage or change her heart is a triumph of the will that readers can admire.  She is a static character, but not a stagnant one.
Think about the characters in the stories you’ve read so far.  Who are the protagonists and what are the antagonistic forces they are up against? What are the roles of the minor characters in the story?  Do they shed light on the main character in some way?  How deep can you take your observations of personality and behavior and motivation?  In the end, does the character change in any significant way?  If the character doesn’t change, does that stasis seem to you to be a triumph or a tragedy?

 

 

 

     

 


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