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Narrative Effect: Script for Loop Writing using Samuel by Grace Paley from the Year II Anthology, Fall

2011
Sean Mills

Free writing (5 minutes)

Part 1: Personal Groundwork List at least five situations or incidents from personal experience in which you witnessed or were involved with something dangerous; for example, think of an error in judgment, reckless behavior, or an accident that may or may not have occurred, but was a close call (5 minutes). Loop 1: Choose the item on your list that is most alive, frightening, or embarrassing to you and write a detailed description of the event or incident that would help others in the group visualize the scene. Try to put someone else in your shoes and create an overall effect. (5 minutes.) Loop 2: Explain why you wrote about this situation. Why did you choose it? Just how terrifying or dangerous was it? How did you escape or survive it? How is the incident meaningful to you and what does it exemplify? (5 minutes.) Loop 3: What would someone else observing this scene (not you) have said about it? Would that person have a different take on what transpired? Would he or she have admonished or even punished you or others for the dangerous behavior? What actions would be taken, if any? (5 minutes.) Share: Choose one of your three loops to share with the group and allow for a quick thought chain (I hear you saying . . .). OR: if time is limited, break into pairs and share with a partner. If working in pairs, just read the others loop without commentary or discussion, and then write one observation or question on your partners page in response. The second option will allow for every narrative loop to be read. (10 minutes)

Part 2: Working with the Text Turn to the short story Samuel by Grace Paley on p. 90. Have one volunteer read the first paragraph, then the next person in the circle read the next paragraph, etc., until the end of the two-page story. (5 minutes.) How would you describe the situation in Paleys story? Whose story is it? Who are the main characters and what points of view are there in the story, if there is more than one? Is there a word or phrase from the text that encapsulates the piece (if so, underline it), or can you think of one yourself? (2 minutes)

Ask for another volunteer to start again and repeat with a second reading, going around the circle. (5 minutes.) How would you describe the overall effect of the storytelling? Why? (2 minutes) The title of the story is simply Samuel, but for the sake of this exercise we need to retitle it. Make a list of at least 8 words that could be interpretive titles of this story so far. What does this story seem to be about? (5 minutes) Share: Everyone lists 2 or 3 of their favorite titles on the board. Discuss the title choices. What do we learn about the piece by considering the many possibilities before us? A good title acts as a little light we turn on that shines down onto the picture a story paints. Go back to your own loops and think about 2 or 3 titles you would give a piece about your own dangerous situation. What interpretive light would make us think reflectively about your story before we started reading? Which would you choose and why? (10 minutes) Process: Compare the effect of your narrative to the overall effect of the short story Samuel. Would others be transported? Does it keep one on the edge of ones seat? Is there suspense and surprise? Does the effect of your writing show us something rather than tell it? If so, what are you trying to show? In other words, did you successfully put someone else in your shoes as you told your story? If not, no problemrethink your approachhow could you have done it better? (5 minutes.) Share: Read aloud either of your last two entries (process or title reflections; 10 minutes).

Homework: Expand or rewrite your description of danger so that it develops into a more complete narrative that shows rather than tells. Make it at least a page, maybe two, long. Use Paleys story for inspiration. She begins with Some boys are very tough. It is telling, yesa subjective statement in response to the death of a young boy. But then she proceeds to describe; she takes us out onto the elevated tracks, into that subway car and the dramatic events of the story. In the last line of the piece she grabs the reader with a shiver of recognition that seems like commentary on the overall effect of the short story: but never again will a boy exactly like Samuel be known. Handwrite your story in your journal or type it up and bring it to the next days workshop and be prepared to share it with the group.

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