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Assignment 3 Invention Strategies

The following invention activities will help you to focus and refine your border story for Assignment 3, including its narrative and descriptive writing elements. You are strongly, strongly encouraged--i.e., warned--to continue using these invention techniques at home as you prepare your working draft for a conference in my office.  
You may, however, change your topic altogether after today, so long as the new topic still meets the demands of the assignment.

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Step 1: Invention

Free-write for 5 minutes about the topic you've selected for Assignment 3. (If you haven't selected a topic, choose a tentative one now; you can change or refine it later.)

Remember, this doesn't have to be coherently written. Don't worry about grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. In fact, if English is not you're preferred language, you may use another. Just freely associate about the border-related event or the experience in whatever way you're inspired to, which could include

  • the narrative details of that event (which answers "What happened?")
  • the theme of "border" (which answers "How does this topic address the assignment prompt?")
  • the significance of the event (which answers "Why does this matter?")

Step 2: A Narrative Outline

In about 5 minutes, compose a scratch outline of the most important NARRATIVE parts of your story, including

  • setting (time, place, and mood)
  • the kind of border involved (a literal border or divide? or, a figurative one?)
  • characters (people involved)
    • names
    • relationships
  • plot or situation (the sequence of events in the story)
Step 3: Description

Using the setting in your scratch outline (or just one of the settings, if more than one are being used in your story), take 10 minutes to describe the following:

  1. What does the setting look like at a distance, to someone not involved in your story? Imagine, for example, an impartial observer examining it from across the street, or looking in through a window. What features would stand out as significant or interesting?
  2. What does it look like to you within the setting? Imagine looking around you? What features create a the mood of the setting? How do those features stand out? (Note: These don't have to be details important to the plot of your story. They can just be seemingly insignificant or peripheral details that help to give the setting a character of place.)
  • What does one of those features feel like or seem like? Write about it poetically.
  • Use as much sensory detail as you can to describe it (sound, touch, smell, taste, sight).
  • Use language with cadence (music).
  • Use at least one analogy (a metaphor, or a simile beginning with "like" or "as") to help a reader "visualize" something about it that's otherwise hard to explain.


At home...

Continue the invention and pre-writing for your story.  

  • Repeat Step 3, but this time write about one of the character's in your story instead of one of the settings.  
  • Think about the voice of that character:  What words, phrases, expression, accents, etc. are unique to that character?  What's something that character would typically say?
  • Now turn to your own narrative voice:  What's a more literary version of your own storytelling voice?  
  • Edit and revise for passive voice:  Change passive and boring verbs such as "is/are," "has/have," "get," "go," "look," "seems," "said," etc., using active and descriptive language.
  • Strive for subtlety and interesting perspective, instead of exaggeration and melodrama--even if your story is, in itself, very dramatic.


For Next Week
Prepare and bring a typed and printed, MLA style draft of your story for your schedule conference next week.  (If "MLA style" confuses you, look it up in the course resources or in the tens of thousands of on-line resources that cover this topic!)  The Conference Schedule will be posted (securely) on the official Assignment 3 page; please come on time and on the right day!)
Last Updated: 04/05/2017


Karl J Sherlock
English / Creative Writing
Office Hours: M/W 6-7pm T/Th 3:30-5pm 52-558A (inside, corner office)
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
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