Creative Writing: Plot and Characters

Teacher: Katie Schofield
Extra Help: Tuesdays, Room 304, from 3-4 or by appointment.

Plot and Characters Writing Workshop Course Overview, Spring 2015


Writing is its own reward. Henry Miller


If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.   Toni Morrison


In this writing workshop, you may not write the next great novel, but you will develop the essential skills of plot and character development in fiction.  These elements are considered the core of strong fiction writing. Plot and characters will come alive through writing exercises, reading and analyzing the masters of fiction, and crafting our own short fiction.  Expert writers are expert readers, so it is essential to absorb the writing techniques and choices of master writers before we finish the semester.


We all have a writer within us with ideas to express. By using descriptive, creative writing, both professional examples and our own, expect to grow as an overall writer and strengthen your communication skills.  As an inclusive, thoughtful, and respectful class, we will construct and convey meaning though the writing process and finished pieces.   Through plot and character driven stories, we will consistently connect our writing pieces with the writing of others and the broader world.  We will also notice the connections between plot and character.  Be prepared to write thoughtfully!


Essential Questions:

What are the questions good writers ask themselves?

                  What matters?

                  When am I done?

                  How can I grow as a writer?

                  What story do I want to tell?  What does it mean?

                  Where do I begin the story? Where does it end?

                  How do I create real, engaging characters?

                  How can I improve and revise my writing?

                  How can reading great authors improve my writing?



Unit I: Micro/Flash fiction, focus on Plot

We will start off the semester by learning how to hone our writing down to what is essential, while still conveying meaning/theme. We will acclimate to the routines of a writing workshop.   Skills taught and practiced focus on elements of plot and may include: story arc, descriptive and effective details, peer review and editing, giving and receiving feedback.  We will read many examples of micro-stories- from a few words to a few paragraphs.

Master writers may include: Anne Lamott, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut, Kate Chopin, Margaret Atwood


Assessment: Fundamentals of creative writing quiz, Two flash fiction pieces (100-200 words) 


Unit II: Short Stories, focus on characters

The fiction being read, written, and works hoped will become longer.  Students will write substantial short stories with compelling character and plot development, while also developing meaning and message.  Skills taught and practiced will focus on characters and may include: reflecting on and analyzing short stories, comparing different characters, development of characters and meaning, establishing points of view, grammar, conventions, vocabulary.

Master writers may include: Tim O’Brien, Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury, Alice Munro


Assessment: 2000 words of a short story.  Each story submitted should be at least 1000 words.


Unit III: Great Writer Modeling

We now know how to write an engaging fictional piece—can we push our craft by modeling a piece off of the work of a famous writer?  Students will identify elements of good writing of authors we have read and studied to notice how each writer uniquely and effectively develops plot and characters.  Students will select literary techniques to focus on and will use the original stories of great authors to influence their own writing. Skills taught and practiced may include: narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, finding the deeper meaning, development of experiences, events, and characters.

Master writers may include: Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury, Alice Munro, Tim O’Brien, Jhumpa Lahiri, Daniel Orozco


Assessment: 2000 words of writing incorporating at least 3 literary techniques of great authors,  half page reflection and explanation.


Final Independent Assessment: Using the forms and skills practiced throughout the semester, students will prepare approximately 4-8 single spaced pages of creative writing of your choice (new material, but could be based on free writes or writing prompts from class). The final assessment is not revisable, although you will have the opportunity for peer and teacher feedback before you hand in your final draft.


Throughout the units:

Practice skills through individual writing (ex: prompts, hooks, characters, imagery)

Keep a journal: Free writes, brainstorms, drafts, ideas

Review, discuss, and share our work with one another

Constantly revise and edit work!


Materials required:

One notebook for free writes, prompts, and notes (of your choice- spiral, marble, cutesy, etc.) One folder or binder for loose papers and drafts of writing



Assessments will be graded on the following four writing workshops strands:

Content (30%): development of ideas, development of plot and experience, development of characters, sequencing of events, engaging and relevant details, description, imagery, personal style, introducing a narrator and/or characters, creating a smooth progression of experiences

Structure (30%): Organizational clarity, smooth sequencing of events, strong introduction and conclusion, establishing point of view, re-structuring if feedback requires it (does it make sense to you but not to others?)

Language and Conventions (15%): Develop and strengthen writing through planning, revising, editing, and rewriting. Editing focuses on proper grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, word choice and tone to match audience.

Work Habits (25%): Completing all assignments on time, from homework to final assessments, effort and diligence in writing in class and at home, using time effectively, increasing writing stamina and writing over extended time frames, seeking help from others, overcoming challenges. Using technology to write and publish writing.

**I make every attempt to grade small assignments within one week and major assignments within two.  Please have patience if a big writing assignment requires a little more time- I read every piece you hand in thoroughly and thoughtfully, sometimes to an extreme.



While this course challenges all students to think critically about the essential questions and read rigorous texts, the honors option allows students to explore deeper. To receive Honors credit for the course, students must complete the following work:

Part I: Complete an independent project of analysis of one master writer and a fiction story modeled after that author’s style.  Read and analyze multiple works of that author to deeply understand the author’s style and choices.

-       Due within one month:  Selecting the author from a list provided and the two stories by that author to read.

-       Due within two months: Analyze the author’s style and identify at least five techniques used by that author.

-       Due within three months: Writing a story (4 pages single spaced) including elements from the two works by the selected author AND evidence of thoughtful plot and character development.  Include an explanation of how these elements were used.  Hand in drafts.

-       Due by end of semester: Reflection explaining what elements you would like to continue to use in your own writing and what elements you tried out and will leave to the professionals.  What are other ideas you would like to try in future writing?


Part II: Maintain a grade of 80% or higher in all strands, hand in all work on time and to high standards, and act as a consistent classroom leader.


About Revision:

All major projects, with the exception of the final project and honors work, are eligible for revision.  Work must be handed in on time to be eligible.  After receiving back your writing project with comments, you have two weeks to: 1) meet with me to discuss your goals for revision and 2) revise/edit your work incorporating the expectations from our conversation.  Revision is an excellent opportunity to continue to grow as a writer, and it is an ongoing process.  There will be much time during class to take advantage of to revise your work before it is handed in. I encourage you to check in with me throughout the semester.


POLICIES (see student handbook for extended explanations):


Class Expectations

In order for this course to be a meaningful experience for all of us, please:


·                 Come on time and prepared.  Always bring your writing materials/journal.

·                 Listen to others in class with engagement and respect.  Be kind.

·                 Don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts or writing!

·                 Ask for help when you need it.

·                 Complete assignments on time and with effort.

·                 Do NOT use phones or electronics in class (except with teacher permission or special arrangement).  If I see one, you will take it to Tina’s office.


Students are encouraged (but not required!) to bring their own computers to class in order to guarantee consistent technology access. 


Risk taking and respect

You will be sharing your writing in this class.  That means that everybody needs to feel safe and respected.  It is important that we give both others and ourselves permission to take risks, and that we be enthusiastically, critically, supportively engaged in one another's process. 


Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s words or ideas as your own. That means:

-       copying/ pasting something from the internet, another source, or another student without quote marks and citation

-       paraphrasing something from any source without citation

-       submitting work that has already been submitted in another class


When in doubt, CITE!  If it’s in the gray area, it IS plagiarism.   For more information on the Academic Honesty policy, please refer to the student handbook.  Please know that I must take cases of plagiarism to Dr. Arnold with the first offense.


Late Work Policy/Extra Credit Policy

In order for an assignment to be eligible for revision and to receive full credit, it must be turned in on time.   If you need an extension, you must communicate with me at least 24 hours in advance of the class when the assignment is due. 


Late work is accepted up to two weeks after the due date, but the grade will suffer.  You have one week to hand in work with only a work habits penalty and two weeks to receive credit in all strands.


At the end of the semester the lowest work habits grade is dropped to account for emergency circumstances.  If you are failing the course due to missing work, you may complete the honors project for extra credit but I will not create additional work.


Saving Work for Exhibition Night and POLs

You may request permission to use any of the four major pieces of writing from the course during Exhibition Night, POLs, and digital portfolios.  However, I will only approve work for exhibition night or POLs if you bring me the original version with the original rubric and notes.  Do not just save it on the computer.  If you think that one day in the future you may ask me for a college rec, please continue to save any work with my comments so that I can write about your exceptional work.


Extra Help

Please come see me for extra help! I am available on Tuesday afternoons from 3-4 pm or by appointment.  Contact me at

Creative Independent Project- Website
Tom Hinkle,
Dec 19, 2014, 11:53 AM