Homework assignment 2 – Writing SF

In the second class I asked you to create a CHARACTER – find him or her, define what makes him/her unique, different from us, and different from others of his/her species. After that, I asked you to free associate “outward” into the character’s environment — physical, social, personal — which will relate in some way to the kind of being he/she is. (If he/she has gills, to use an obvious example, their world might be a swamp or ocean, or a world full of pits of water.)

For this exercise, confront the character with an challenge. Something happens, something which is, or might be, horrifying and unexpected, and confronts the character with a darker and more difficult truth about their world or life, that they’ve avoided having to deal with until then. 


In the first class, I asked you to free associate about your character:

  1. Walking through your character’s neighborhood — describe his or her neighborhood… walk into their home, describe what you see
  2. … then confront them with someone or something unexpected…
  3. … then imagine yourself reaching into an imaginary box on the table in front of them, and pulling out an object… then include the object in your narrative.

Your assignment for this week is to write a short story, or write a portion of a longer story, incorporating the elements above.

If you decide to a short story, try structuring it along the lines we talked about in class:

  1. a brief introduction to the character, including something to make the reader care about or sympathize with him or her (the intro can include details about his or her life from your in-class brainstorming);
  2. an inciting incident (something that happens that disrupts the character’s usual life in some way, and presents a challenge;
  3. Complications (the character is faced with a challenge that leads quickly to complications and other difficulties);
  4. a climax (in which it’s recommended that the main tension in the story be resolved somehow) and
  5. an ending.

If you choose to write a portion of a longer story, you can either plan it (plan the whole story out in advance) or pants it (just start writing, without thinking too much about where the story is going.

Important notes:

  1. If you have your own idea for a story, it’s fine to write it instead. If you don’t, use the prompts.
  2. Whatever story you end up writing should be at least 1,000 words long, but shorter than 2,000 words. (It’s fine if you write something longer, but to have time in class for everyone to share their stories, 2,000 words is the limit to how much can be shared).
  3. Even if you decide to pants the story (write without much preplanning), your readers will want the story to ultimately make sense. This means that if you pants something, it may need more rewriting than if you plan it out in advance. It’s totally fine to pants stories… more than half of the writers out there do… but remember that the story needs to make sense.
  4. Print and bring a few copies to class if you can. (Or if printing is difficult, you could email your story to others in the class so they can read along as you’re reading it aloud.) (You’ll get MUCH better feedback on your story if people have a way to read along, then if they are trying to follow it without a reading copy while you read it aloud)
  5. If you’d like a refresher about some basics of storytelling, listen to the video below: