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Extended Scene Analysis

Assignment Summary

This exercise follows the Extended Scene Writing exercise.

The class divides into small groups (3-4 people).
Each person takes a turn reading their scene aloud. Writers and
listeners should make a mental (or, preferably, a written) note
of answer to the questions below. When each writer is done reading
their scene, the group should discuss these questions. When everyone
is finished, the group can decide which scene has the potential
to be part of a good essay. Each student should explain aloud
their reason for choosing that scene.

1. What do you believe is or will be the main idea
of your first essay?
2. Is there any way that the expanded scene you wrote can be used to support or develop this idea?

1. Which parts of the extended scene did you like, and why?
2. Is there anything the writer could do to tighten up the scene without cutting out any interesting or important details?
3. If something "really happened" a certain way that comes across as unbelievable or less interesting in the scene, what can the reader do to remedy this?

Instructor's Comments

This exercise is meant to guide students' intuitive responses to writing rather than mold those responses. In response question three, "interesting or important" is defined by the students at this point. How they differ in defining them is a hotspot for discussion. The teacher may also wish to use these response questions for early drafts of the essays. Everyone--students and teachers--should strive to analyze their reasons for labeling writing as more or less effective.

Regarding response question three, this is a good time to address a common problem in writing instruction, creative and compositional--the assertion or belief that truth-telling (confession) makes writing effective and powerful. Developing writers often feel they should be rewarded for confessing their deepest secrets. Teachers encourage or discourage this according to their own taste and tolerance. I tend to find that whichever choice the students make regarding this, their writing is improved when confession is grounded in the environment in which it occurred. I tend to stress the old fiction writers' rule of thumb--when you can, show rather than tell; let your reader know the foundation for the experience.

genre narrative
course WRT 101 and up
activity type small group discussion
skills peer evaluation, analysis
duration 1 class
draft of narrative scene (see Extended Scene Writing)
handouts: none
contributor: Cynthia Davidson