Horror Unit Assignments

Horror Unit:  Zombies!  Ghosts!  Werewolves! By Tessa Strain

Prefatory Statement

This unit will focus on elements of horror and suspense in literature and film.  It is important for students to understand different characteristics within different genres and the effects of these elements on readers and viewers.  Horror and suspense are genres that continually capture interest across generations and social statuses and literacies.  This unit will benefit students by exposing them to an often ignored genre in education.  Students not interested in traditionally taught literature (poetry, Shakespeare, classic novels) would have something to read that they may find more interesting.  During this unit, students will read classic horror such as Poe as well as more contemporary literature by Stephen King.  They will have the opportunity to choose a book to read and discuss with a group from many varieties of literature such as Frankenstein, Turn of the Screw, Duma Key, and the Haunting of Hill House.  The knowledge gained from this unit will be applied through writing a short horror story and creating a book trailer.  Teaching this unit will benefit both the classroom and those outside of schools by producing students who know and appreciate multiple genres of literature and film.

Class Specification

This unit would be appropriate for 9th-12th grade, although in this case it will be taught to the 10th grade.  It doesn’t favor one type of person over another; horror and suspense capture the interest of people in any culture and socio-economic status.  While this unit isn’t necessarily inappropriate, it may scare some students more than others.

Significant Assumptions

The only assumption I have going into this unit is that students know how to read and that they will not be too frightened by the material.  I assume that students will like reading something that’s not “traditional”.  I also think that students learn in a variety of ways which is why different activities are built into this unit such as reading, writing, film, acting, discussing, and others.  I think students will best understand the concepts by viewing them through reading then putting them into practice through their own writing and interpretations.  This way they can figure things out for themselves without the teacher having to tell them what to think.

 

Desired Outcomes/Standards/ Objectives to be Met

MN Standards

Objectives

Assessments

9.4.3.3    Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

Students will have learned elements of horror and suspense.

Students will understand what effect these elements have on a text.

Students will write their own short story or poem incorporating elements of horror and suspense successfully.

9.4.4.4   Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Students will define, identify and use elements of horror and suspense.

Students will create a short film advertising a book we have read during the unit (their lit circle book), and share with the class. OR students will write their own storyboard for a “horror” movie and create a short film trailer.

Possible Whole-Class Activities:

The class will have a large group discussion on The Cask of Amontillado.  The class will also show their book trailers to everyone.

Possible Small-Group Activities:

Literature Circles will be a small group discussion.  A small group of students will read a book and hold discussions on their reading.  The final assessment will be making a book trailer based on what they read.  As a group they will create a storyboard, film, and edit their trailer.  They will be held accountable as a group for the trailer.

Possible Individual Activities:

Students will write their own horror literature.  They will have the choice between a short story or a poem.  Students will also be responsible for reading on their own and for individually fulfilling their Literature Circle roles (the summarizer, the researcher, the illustrator, etc).  For the blog, students will be responsible for individually posting and responding to other’s posts.

Ongoing Activities:

Blog  http://www.english-horrorunit.blogspot.com/

First post:  Students will make predictions or assumptions before reading their literature circle book.

Second post:  Students will give a brief overview of what’s going on in their book.  Then they will discuss if their predictions were true, if they’ve changed opinions, and make more predictions or generate questions.  They will have to respond to two posts written by people reading a different book.

Third post questions:  Did your predictions come true?  What lingering questions do you have on the story?  Please give an interpretation of the ending.

Students will answer the overall questions on horror reading on this blog as well.

  •  Identify “horror” in your reading.  Why is this scary or suspenseful?  How do these elements further the story and the reader’s understanding of it?
  • Do you personally find this horrifying?  What does this say in relation to what people used to find scary and what they view it as now?

 

Student Resources:

Resources:  Poster board, glue, magazines, markers, Computer Lab

Literature:

The Cask of Amontillado (Poe)

The Raven (Poe)

The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Duma Key (Stephen King)

The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

 

Unit Launch/Anticipatory set/ Set Induction: Describe how you will initially motivate your students to engage in this unit. What connections can you help the students make between their world and the world that surrounds them? What materials you might use with students in this lesson. You may choose to make this one of your detailed plans for one of the three days.

Quiz:  Which horror character are you?

  • This will be taken in the computer lab as a fun activity to introduce horror and its typical characters.

Brainstorm:  What is scary to you?

  • This can also be done in the lab or classroom.  On the board, create a web of what is scary to students.

Collages:  How do you view horror?

  • Back in the classroom students can work either by themselves or with a partner to create a collage on how they view horror.  There will be magazines for students to cut things out of and markers for students to draw as well.

 

Tessa Strain                                              Introduction to Horror Lesson Plan                                                Grade 10

 

Stage 1 – Desired Results

Content Standard(s):

 

Reading: Literature

9.4.3.3    Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

 

9.4.4.4   Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

 

Understanding (s)/goals

Students will understand:

 

Why certain things incite fear while others do not.

 

 

Essential Question(s):

 

What makes some things “scary”?

How does fear make us see texts and movies differently?

 

 

Student objectives (outcomes):

 

Students will be able to explore what they are scared of and why.  They will understand the effect horror and suspense have on readers and viewers.

 

 

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s):

 

Students will complete a collage of what is scary to them to be hung around the room.

 

Other Evidence:

 

Students will write their own short horror or suspense story using elements of horror for effect.

 

Stage 3 – Learning Plan

Materials and Resources

Lesson Plan:

 

Materials:  Computer Lab, Magazines, scissors, glue, poster board, markers

 

Introduction:

Lab:  What horror character are you? Online quizzes. 

http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/Movies/Tallrean/which-horror-movie-character-are-you/

Brainstorm on the board, what is scary to you?  Why?

 

Classroom:  Individually or with one or two other people, begin work on a collage, What do you find scary?  Students can use magazines and markers to complete their collages.

When done, they will be hung around the room, but there will be more time tomorrow to complete the collage.

 

 

 

 

 

Organization of the Unit:

Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

1

Introduce Unit.  Quiz:  “What Horror Character are you”?

Brainstorm:  What is scary to you?  Why?

Begin collages.

 

Lab Day

Choose Lit Circle books

 

Finish Collages

 

Handout:  Elements of horror fiction

Choose Lit circle roles

Define elements of horror

 

Short story terms: define as a class.

 

Read “The Cask of Amontillado”

Discuss

Reading/Work Day

 

Assign short story assignment

2

Read “The Raven”

Discuss

1st half of book due for Lit Circles

Define film terms

 

Draft of short story due for peer review.

Show “The Birds”

“The Birds”

Assignment:  Essay on the use of film effects in “The Birds”

3

Discuss “Birds”

Read “A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain

Introduce Book Trailer assignment

Begin work

 

Essay Due

 

Lab Day to work on trailer

2nd half of book due for Lit Circles

Short story due

Week One:  Introduce horror unit.  Make collages on what students view as scary or what horror is to them.  Bring in choices for literature circle books, Frankenstein, Duma Key, Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House.  Students will choose their Lit Circle roles to ensure accountability for reading their books.  We will define the elements of horror so students are aware of what to be looking for, and their individual short horror story will be assigned.  We will read “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe and discuss it as a whole class.  Towards the end of the week we will go over some elements of short stories and have a reading/work day.

Week Two:  Read “The Raven” by Poe in class, discuss as a whole group.  The first half of students’ Lit Circle books will be due earlier in the week so they can have a day for discussion on those.  AS a class, film techniques will be defined and a draft of the short story will be due for in class peer editing.  At the end of the week we will begin “The Birds”, a movie to help illustrate the effects of film techniques and how they can be used for scary movies specifically.  There will be a short essay due in week3 about the movie and to what effects techniques were used.  The essay assignment will be given to students before viewing the film so that they know what to take notes on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tessa Strain                                              Lesson Plan for Film Techniques                                                    Grade 10

Stage 1 – Desired Results

Content Standard(s):

 

Reading: Literature

9.4.3.3    Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

 

9.4.4.4   Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

 

 

Understanding (s)/goals

Students will understand:

 

The effect film has on viewers.

How to use the techniques for certain effects.

 

 

Essential Question(s):

 

How do elements of horror affect how we see and read things?

How can I be more aware of the effects these have on me?

 

 

Student objectives (outcomes):

 

Students will learn the elements of film and how they are used to create effects within horror and suspense movies.

 

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s):

 

Students will define and complete the handout on film techniques.

Other Evidence:

 

Students will create a book trailer using some film techniques and elements of horror for effect.

 

Stage 3 – Learning Plan

Materials and Resources

Lesson Plan:

 

Hand out definition worksheet

Go over terms as a class so everyone has the same definition

Show YouTube clips with examples of film techniques.

(Type in “film techniques, it is the first that comes up, only need to show about the first 3 minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1japIhKU9I )

 

Students should have brought in a rough draft of their short story, ask them to get into pairs and talk about stories/peer edit.  If they finish, they can switch with another partner.  They keep their stories at the end of the hour.

 

 

Definitions of Film Techniques

 

Camera Angles:

                  Long Shot

                  Close Up

                  Medium Shot

Low Angle

High Angle

Eye Lever

Dutch Angle

Tracking Shot

Crosscut

Eye-line Match

Flashback/Flashforward

 

Focus

                  Soft Focus

                  Rack Focus

                  Deep Focus

                  Pan

                  Tilt

                  Zoom

                  Fade

                  Dissolve

 

Lighting

                  Low-Key Lighting

                  High-Key Lighting

                  Neutral Lighting

                  Bottom/Side Lighting

                  Front Lighting

 

Sound

                  Diegetic Sound

                  Nondiegetic Sound

                  Internal Diegetic Sound

                 

 

Week Three:  We will finish “Birds” if necessary and have a short discussion to clear up any questions students may have. We may have a short reading in class just for fun of Mark Twain’s “A Ghost Story”, otherwise students can work on assignments.  The Book Trailer assignment will be given this week, where students in their lit circle groups create a movie trailer of the book they are reading.  There will also be a Lit Circle day when the second half of the book is due to be read before class so students can start discussion on the final half of their books.  The rest of the week, the short story is due, and they can have a work day on their book trailer assignment.

Discussion Questions:

The Cask of Amontillado:  Do you think the murder was premeditated?  Why or why not?  How does the main character’s family motto play into what happened?  What does Fortunato’s name say about him/his fate?

The Raven:  How does Poe create the mood felt in the poem?  What descriptors does he use and to what effect?  What literary terms do we find in this poem?  What effect do they have on the understanding/feeling?

The Turn of the Screw:  Who are the heroes and the villains in this story?  How exactly did Miles die?  Is there more than one interpretation of his death?

Frankenstein: Is Frankenstein the real “monster” of this story?  What responsibility comes with creating something like this?  How does this story tie into modern society?

Duma Key:  What non-conventional horror elements does King use in this story?  Why is this scary?  What role does Freemantle’s family play in this novel?

The Haunting of Hill House:  Why are Eleanor and Theodora afraid upon arriving at the house? How does Jackson create the mood of Hill House?  What are the most affective approaches in this story to study the paranormal (think of the differences between Dr. and Mrs. Montague).  What we can say about Eleanor’s sanity?  Support with examples.

Assessment Task:

I have two culminating assessments planned for this unit.  One is an individual short story where students will need to incorporate the elements of horror effectively to evoke certain emotions from readers.  The other assessment is a book trailer where students will have to use visual aids to show an in-depth comprehension of the book they have read and how certain film characteristics will affect viewers.

Grades:  

I don’t feel like every little thing should be assessed in this unit.  It is mainly for exploration of a different theme and for bringing something interesting and fun into the classroom.  The main thing that I will grade students on is the short story they are to write by themselves.

They will also be graded on their participation in either the blog or the lit circles.  They will be held accountable individually by fulfilling their roles in the circles, and as a group for the book trailer.  If students feel their group grade is unfair it will be discussed on an individual basis.  I will sit in on the literature circles to assess participation, reading, discussing, and listening.  When we have large class discussions I will be looking for participation whether it is orally or by listening.

 

Project Assessments

Book Trailer

Checklist:

_____  Introduction captures audience’s attention

_____  Trailer includes important characters

_____Trailer follows the basic plot/includes no plot flaws

_____  Does NOT give away the ending

_____  Includes at least 3 camera techniques (angles, lighting, zoom, sound, etc)

_____  Contains dialog and at least 4 lines from the story

_____  Book trailer is audible

 

 

Rubric

                                                              1                                   2                                           3                                                    3+

 

 

 

Content

Has an Introduction.

 

 

Includes basic plot points.

 

Introduces the book/trailer creatively.

 

 

Plot summary goes in depth to the story without giving away the ending.

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation

Makes use of different camera angles.

 

Uses images relevant to the story.

 

Includes sounds other than dialog.

 

Uses camera angles to enhance presentation, and to emphasize or create meaning.

 

Images are thoughtful and focus on meaning in the story.

 

Uses sound effects and music to enhance quality of the presentation.

 

 

 

 

Short Story

Checklist:

_____Hook

_____Sets the story up (character, plot, setting, etc)

_____contains elements of horror and suspense

_____Has a distinct conflict/plot

_____Character development:  do they come to any realizations?

_____ Story includes climatic action

_____Story has definite conclusion

 

If anything is missing please go back and include it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubric for “Birds” Essay

 

1

 

3

 

Essay identifies elements of horror and suspense in “The Birds”.

 

Essay describes what effects the elements have on the film and the audience.

 

Essay identifies elements of film.

 

Essay describes the effects of multiple elements in film and how they affect the audience.

 

Essay uses effective language.

 

Essay uses effective language and contains no spelling or grammar errors.

 

 

 

Resources for Teachers:

From William Robinson at the University of Tennessee http://teachers.sduhsd.net/sfarris/Files/AP%20Lit%20Files/Elements%20of%20Horror%20Fiction.doc

And

http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/engramja/elements.html

HANDOUT 1

Hand out the elements, "Gothic Horror," and "Atmosphere" section for students to use as a reference, and discuss the history of horror in a lecture setting.

I.  Elements of Horror Fiction:

Source:  William C. Robinson, University of Tennessee.

·         Highly improbable and unexpected sequences of events that usually begin in ordinary situations and involve supernatural elements

·         Contrast the oddness of these events with the minutiae of daily life so readers identify with the characters

·         Explores the dark, malevolent side of humanity

·         Main characters are people we can understand and perhaps identify with although often these are haunted, estranged individuals

·         Lives depends on the success of the protagonist

·         Mood is dark, foreboding, menacing, bleak and creates an immediate response by the reader

·         Setting may be described in some detail if much of the story takes place in one location

·         Plot contains frightening and unexpected incidents

·         Most stories are told in the third person

·         The style is plain

·         The key ingredient in horror fiction is its ability to provoke fear or terror in readers, usually via something demonic. There should be a sense of dread, unease, anxiety, or foreboding. Some critics have noted that experiencing horror fiction is like reading about your worst nightmares.

·         There is some debate as to whether "horror" is a genre or, like "adventure," an aspect that may be found in several genres. Horror is a certain mood or atmosphere that might be found in a variety of places. Traditionally, horror was associated with certain archetypes such as demons, witches, ghosts, vampires and the like. However, this can be found in other genres, especially fantasy. If horror is a genre, then it deals with a protagonist dealing with overwhelming dark and evil forces.

 

Gothic Horror

GOTHIC is a term sometimes used instead of HORROR. As Grolier says, "The earliest Gothic romance, a class of novel dealing in the mysterious and supernatural, which emerged shortly after the establishment of the novel form itself, was Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1764). Reacting against the literalism and confined domesticity of Samuel Richardson, Walpole indulged a contemporary taste for the "Gothic," which for the 18th-century reader conjured up a medieval world of barbarous passions enacted in picturesque melodramatic settings of ruined castles, ancient monasteries, and wild landscapes. Within a plot designed for suspense, a delicate feminine sensibility is subjected to the onslaught of elemental forces of good and evil. Sanity and chastity are constantly threatened, and over all looms the suggestion that evil and irrationality will destroy civilization."

 

Atmosphere

The dark, brooding, threatening atmosphere becomes the main character in many horror stories. Thus, mood and setting are as or more important than plot and characters. The atmosphere is often portrayed in considerable detail so it becomes alive and immediately threatening.

 

Very Brief History

While horror stories are well rooted in myth and legend, particularly in some of the fairy tales collected in the 19th Century, Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque published in 1840 was a notable landmark. Even earlier was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1765. Ghost stories were popular in the early 20th Century. M.R. James is an example. H.P. Lovecraft added his unique blend of fantasy and horror in the 1930s. Rosemary's Baby, probably the film more than the book, made horror popular. Stephen King soon followed with a series of increasingly popular novels and horror fiction boomed and has become the "benchmark" author. R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series made mild horror popular with children and younger teens. The 1970s and 1980s were a boom time for horror. Interest receded in the 1990s and publishers reduced their horror lists. In the last few years, horror has become more popular and publishing output has increased.

While horror fiction has been placed in a marginalized position within genre fiction which is itself marginalized from "real" literature, horror has long been part of real literature. Beowulf is a good example.

Myth and Legend

Many of the myths and legends associated with various cultures feature stories of supernatural creatures. Greek mythology is a good example in our own culture. There is a long tradition of such stories and the belief by many that events don't just happen but that something is responsible. Supernatural events and creatures are often encountered in myth, legend, and folklore.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) have become legends of their own.

 

 

 

II.  Gothic Romance

Source: T. M. Harwell (4 vol., 1985) and D. P. Varma (1987).

A type of novel that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th century in England. Gothic romances were mysteries, often involving the supernatural and heavily tinged with horror, and they were usually set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins and haunted castles. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the forerunner of the type, which included the works of Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Charles R. Maturin, and the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey satirizes Gothic romances. The influence of the genre can be found in some works of Coleridge, Le Fanu, Poe, and the Brontës. During the 1960s so-called Gothic novels became enormously popular in England and the United States. Seemingly modeled on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, these novels usually concern spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts. Popular practitioners of this genre are Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, and Dorothy Eden.

 

III.  Gothic Novel

Source:  Wikipedia.com

The gothic novel is an English literary genre, which can be said to have been born with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole. It is the predecessor to modern horror fiction and it above all has led to the common definition of gothic as being connected to the dark and horrific.

Prominent features of gothic novels included terror, mystery, the supernatural, doom, death, decay, old buildings with ghosts, madness, hereditary curses and so on.

 

Origins of the Gothic Novel

The term 'gothic' was originally a disparaging term applied to a style of medieval architecture (Gothic architecture) and art (Gothic art). The opprobrious term "Gothick" was embraced by the 18th-century proponents of the Gothic revival, a forerunner of the Romantic genres. The Gothic in architecture was a reaction to the classical architecture that was a hallmark of the Age of Reason. The revived Gothic architectural style enjoyed popularity in the nineteenth century.

 

In a way similar to the Neo-gothic rejection of the aesthetics of the neoclassical it became linked with a rejection of the reason and logic associated with said style in the form of appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion and the sublime. The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to these emotions by indicating the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations, thus the craze for building fake ruined churches on English country estates as part of landscape architecture. These feelings were also connected to the anti-catholicism created by the Reformation. Good Protestants were supposed to associate medieval buildings with a dark and terrifying period, envisioning the Catholic Church oppressing people with harsh laws, torture and superstitious rituals.

The first gothic novels

 

'Gothic' came to be applied to the literary genre precisely because the genre dealt with such emotional extremes and dark themes, and because it found its most natural settings in the buildings of this style: Castles, Mansions and Monasteries, often remote, crumbling and ruined. It was a fascination with this architecture and its related art, poetry (see Graveyard poets) and even landscape gardening that inspired the first wave of gothic novelists: Horace Walpole, whose seminal The Castle of Otranto is often regarded as the first true gothic novel, was obsessed with fake medieval gothic architecture and built his own house Strawberry Hill in that form, sparking off a fashion for gothic revival.

 

Walpole's novel arose out of this obsession with the medieval. Here rather than a fake building he originally claimed it was a real medieval romance he had discovered and republished. Thus was born the gothic novel's association with fake documentation to increase its effect. The Castle of Otranto was originally titled a Romance – a literary form which was held by educated taste to be tawdry and not even fit for children due to its superstitious elements, but Walpole revived some of the elements of the medieval romance in a new form. The basic plot created many other the gothic staples including a threatening mystery and an ancestral curse, as well as countless trappings: hidden passages, oft-fainting heroines, etc. It was however Ann Radcliffe who created the gothic novel in its standard form. Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the gothic villain, which developed into the Byronic hero. Unlike Walpole's, her novels were best-sellers and virtually everyone in English society was reading them. Radcliffe created a craze and had many imitators; the results were parodied in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey by setting up the atmosphere of doom in which one of the characters sits awake late at night imagining the noises she hears to portend all sorts of horrors owing to the gothic novels she has been reading and sweeping it away with hearty common sense and normalcy. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1818 is undoubtedly the greatest literary triumph of the gothic novel in this its classical period.

Later Developments

In England, the gothic novel as a genre had largely played itself out by 1840. This was largely helped by the over-saturation of the genre by cheap 'pulp' writers (works that would later morph into cheap horror fiction in the form of Penny dreadfuls as well as a reduction in the genres respectability since the turn of the century caused by the publication of works such as Matthew Gregory Lewis' The Monk in(1796, a shocking (particularly at the time) tale of sex, violence and debauchery that almost bordered on the pornographic. However it had a lasting effect on the development of literary form in the Victorian period. It led to the Victorian craze for short ghost stories and the short shocking macabre tale mastered by Edgar Allan Poe. It also was a heavy influence on Charles Dickens who read gothic novels as a teenager and incorporated their gloomy atmosphere and melodrama into his own works, but shifting them to a more modern period. The mood and themes of the gothic novel held a particular fascination for the Victorians, with their morbid obsession with mourning rituals, Mementos, and mortality in general, which led to them becoming a widespread literary influence.

 

Post-Victorian Legacy

By the 1880s it was time for revival as a gothic as a semi-respectable literary form. This was the period of the gothic works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Machen and Oscar Wilde, and the most famous gothic villain ever appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1897. From these, the gothic genre strictly considered gave way to modern horror fiction though many literary critics use the term to cover the entire genre: though many modern writers of horror or indeed other fiction extend considerable gothic sensibilities: Anne Rice being one example, as well as some of the less sensationalist works of Stephen King. The gothic tradition has also expanded its boundaries to films and music, as well as the new media forms of the internet.

 

 

HANDOUT 2

Given to students when we discuss elements of short stories so they could use it as a guide when they write their own.

SETTING -- The time and location in which a story takes place is called the setting.  For some stories the setting is very important, while for others it is not.  There are several aspects of a story's setting to consider when examining how setting contributes to a story (some, or all, may be present in a story):
 

a)  place - geographical location.  Where is the action of the story taking place?
b)  time - When is the story taking place? (historical period, time of day, year, etc)
c)  weather conditions - Is it rainy, sunny, stormy, etc?
d)  social conditions - What is the daily life of the characters like? Does the story contain local color (writing that focuses on the speech, dress, mannerisms, customs, etc. of a particular place)?
e)  mood or atmosphere - What feeling is created at the beginning of the story?  Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening?


PLOT -- The plot is how the author arranges events to develop his basic idea;  It is the sequence of events in a story or play.  The plot is a planned, logical series of events having a beginning, middle, and end.  The short story usually has one plot so it can be read in one sitting.  There are five essential parts of plot:
 

a)  Introduction - The beginning of the story where the characters and the setting is revealed.

b)  Rising Action - This is where the events in the story become complicated and the conflict in the story is revealed (events between the introduction and climax).

c)  Climax - This is the highest point of interest and the turning point of the story.  The reader wonders what will happen next; will the conflict be resolved or not?

d)  Falling action - The events and complications begin to resolve themselves.  The reader knows what has happened next and if the conflict was resolved or not (events between climax and denouement).

e)  Denouement - This is the final outcome or untangling of events in the story.


It is helpful to consider climax as a three-fold phenomenon:  1)  the main character receives new information  2)  accepts this information (realizes it but does not necessarily agree with it) 3)  acts on this information (makes a choice that will determine whether or not he/she gains his objective).

CONFLICT--   Conflict is essential to plot.  Without conflict there is no plot.  It is the opposition of forces which ties one incident to another and makes the plot move.  Conflict is not merely limited to open arguments, rather it is any form of opposition that faces the main character. Within a short story there may be only one central struggle, or there may be one dominant struggle with many minor ones.

There are two types of conflict:
1)  External - A struggle with a force outside one's self.

2)  Internal - A struggle within one's self; a person must make some decision, overcome pain, quiet their temper, resist an urge, etc.

There are four kinds of conflict:
1)  Man vs. Man (physical) - The leading character struggles with his physical strength against other men, forces of nature, or animals.

2)  Man vs. Circumstances (classical) - The leading character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her.

3)  Man vs. Society (social) - The leading character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people.

4)  Man vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) -  The leading character struggles with himself/herself; with his/her own soul, ideas of right or wrong, physical limitations, choices, etc.

Horror: A Study

by Kristina Clark

Are you afraid of the dark? Of ghouls and goblins and things that go bump in the night? I am. Do you find yourself kept awake at night wondering if the closet door will start to slowly open with a hideous creaking that will make your spine shiver and your knees quake? I do. Why would I admit to something so seemingly childish? Well, you see, I am a fan of horror fiction. Let me explain.

 

Horror fiction is just one of many genres of literature. A genre is: "a type of writing produced every day in our culture, types of writing that make possible certain kinds of learning and social interaction" (Cooper 25) or "a type of spoken or written discourse, recognized as conventional by members of an intellectual community that draws together certain substantive and stylistic features in response to a recurrent rhetorical situation" (Jolliffe 279). Basically genre is a code that enables both reader and writer to have direction. It "provides a code that the reader's imagination uses to construct a new world. If the code is strong enough, the readers will enter that world via the imagination and stay to enjoy the show. The reader's imagination has been manipulated by the writer but in the end product belongs to the reader" (Spurling 2). Genre allows readers to form a type of mental blueprint of what a book they pick up is going to be about. If the book is labeled on the cover to be a mystery novel then readers can expect that a crime will take place, someone will be employed to solve the crime, the said crime will be solved through the finding of "clues" and the ending will leave them with a sense of resolution. Genre also allows for a blue print for writers; a guideline system of what and what not to write. As David Jolliffe writes, "Genre...is a cognitive construction, a coding template that leads to active, often purposeful, reading and writing...[genre has] features that compose a code that in turn allows a generic contract to form. This contract guides and ideally, leads to a successful reading of a text" (280). So why is genre so important?

 

For an educator genre yields a great way to get students into the nuts and bolts of both writing and reading. Teaching students genre allows them to recognize the types of writing they like and it also allows them to get a sense of what goes into producing that kind of writing. Instead of teaching a single text (example: The Outsiders ) an educator can teach the young adult novel and allow students the freedom to investigate texts of their own choosing. Lucy Calkins writes of her experience with genre study: "We regard genre studies as fundamental enough to shape our curriculum around them. We find that when an entire class inquires into a genre it is life-giving. It opens doors and leaves a lot of room for variety and choice, while also allowing the classroom community to inquire deeply into something together" (363).

The topic of this genre study is horror fiction, specifically the short story, and now what we need to decide before we venture much further is whether or not horror fiction is an appropriate genre to study in the middle and high school English classrooms.

 

 

Horror fiction first hit the literary market in 1794 with the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story . It was closely followed by Matthew G. Lewis' The Monk (1796), Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818), and Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) (Stuprich 14-21). From the seeds planted by these texts, the horror genre was born. Today horror continues on in the writings of Stephen King, Clive Barker, R. L. Stein, Peter Straub and many others.

 

What is it that makes horror fiction so appealing to adolescents and adults alike? Many readers of horror state that they enjoy being scared. "Why would anyone want to be purposely scared?" many non-horror fiction readers may ask. Aristotle had a theory on why humans so crave darkness and destruction. He termed his theory "catharsis." In catharsis a person purposely views (or in our case reads) a situation that makes him/her afraid and/or uncomfortable. Aristotle concluded that "through the representation on stage of painful events, [the painful event] first arouses in its audience the negative emotions of fear and pity and then allows for the expulsion or purgation of those emotions" (Stuprich 24). According to Aristotle we crave the perusal of horrific events (both witnessed and read) because of a need to deal with those issues vicariously and thereby be clamed and relieved.

 

Sigmund Freud had a similar theory on why people enjoy the gruesome and grotesque. In Freud's theory we all have dark impulses and ideas that we repress. Such impulses and ideas cannot be repressed indefinitely, and people risk expunging these urges unless they are provided with a proper outlet. In Freud's estimation, horror fiction provides readers with such an outlet for their dark inner imaginings whereby they can be dealt with safely. Horror fiction provides a similar outlet for the horror writer as well (25-26). Both Aristotle and Freud agree on one poignant point regarding horror fiction which is, it is the emotion we crave from these texts more than anything else.

 

Horror is more than just monsters and haunted houses and things that slither and squirm in the dark of night; it is the presentation of problems that we all face and we all fear.

Horror fiction deals mostly with themes of fear that express themselves in our daily lives. There are many fears that horror fiction plays upon and helps us deal with vicariously, which tie into the ideas expressed by both Aristotle and Freud.

 

Horror has certainly always identified and exploited the deepest and most abiding of human fears, fears that many if not all human beings share: the fear of entrapment or entombment for example, so common in the works of Edgar Allan Poe; or the fear of losing one's sense of self or personal identity, perhaps through insanity, or through being transformed into something totally alien and other, a common experience in stories of vampires and werewolves, who typically transform their victims into monsters like themselves; or what are possible the most common fears of all, the fear of death and the fear of the unknown. (Stuprich 14)

 

But a horror writer need look no further than his own backyard to find his subject matter: the misery of our inner cities, the cold-eyed insanity of Timothy McVeigh, children who kill and are killed. There's real horror in loneliness and rage, in twisted love and jealousy, in the rampant corporate greed that threatens to rot us from within. Much of today's horror is about these dark stains on our souls, the cancers in our minds...But there's another appeal of horror that we mustn't' fool ourselves about: the innate violence of our species, distilled and pure as plutonium, fuels horror literature and serves as a metaphor for the everyday brutality lying beneath the surface of our lives. ( Taylor 2)

 

Through the reading of horror fiction, we are able to overcome many of these fears, or if not overcome then at least come to terms. The horror writer delights in showing us the darker side of human nature. He/She plays our emotions like a well loved fiddle in a Southern square dance, leaving us breathless and besides ourselves at the end. However, the whole time we are experiencing these emotions we are safe in our own home, or classroom, or car. Through the reading of horror fiction we can safely confront some of the most common of human fears: R. L Stine writes," Goosebumps offers kids a chance for safe scares. They experience terrifying adventures and they survive and triumph in the safety of their own rooms" ( Dickson 117).

 

Horror fiction also helps students to challenge their ideas of reality. What is real and what is not is often something that is very difficult for students to differentiate between. Ruth Vinz, author of ' Horrorscapes In (forming) Adolescent Identity and Desire," explains, "[horror] forces them to consider a world beyond the one that exists in their daily lives. Horror novels construct dilemmas, complexities and perplexities through narratives that challenge finality or certainty" (Quoted in Dickinson 119). Students are forced to weigh what they know to be true against what could be true. This can be very helpful in constructing life-long analytical skills. Horror fiction can help students to become better evaluators of their own lives as well as the fictional lives of others: "In the horror story the expectations and tensions of receiving information sequentially are heightened and exaggerated in such a way that each addition of narrative information will not only affect the status of information given previously, it will affect the status of the listener himself" (Stewart 33). Horror fiction may be so successful today because it is a challenge directly to readers to step beyond what they know and venture into the territory of the unknown.

 

Still the question lingers, how can students benefit from reading horror stories? Maybe the simplest answer is that many students have a love of the macabre that they have been tending on their own why not play upon that and expand their literary horizons? It is common knowledge that Stephen King is one of the most widely read contemporary authors. I often see students in the classroom with King novels under their desks. Part of why he is so popular has to do with the narratives that he creates which are well developed depictions of human nature; another part is that many of his novels have been turned into films over the last two decades (Collings 118-125). Either way the kids are reading, and if so many are reading his novels and short stories, doesn't that tell us something about the literary palates of students today?

 

I read a lot of horror fiction in my spare time and I have termed contemporary horror fiction the "junk food" of literature; you crave it, it gives immediate gratification, and it sticks with you (sometimes in ways that are less than favorable). It seems that many others have the same cravings that I do. But just because we enjoy "junk food" doesn't mean we shouldn't try nutritious foods as well. A love of Stephen King can easily be turned into a love of Edgar Allan Poe, or Mary Shelly, or H.P. Lovecraft with the right instruction. This can be so easily achieved because horror stories share the same basic elements.

 

Defining Horror Fiction:

 

Horror fiction is a type of fiction that involves the elements of the horrific to elicit a response, namely fear, in its readers. Good horror writers can make their readers experience the same events as the characters in their stories. Horror writers want to use just the right amount of gore and shadows to produce an effective narrative. The end result should leaves readers thinking of how well off they are not to have actually experienced the trials of the characters. In essence, "Horror art is ultimately defined not in terms of any particular form or content, but by the emotion it produces, and that emotion is fear...Humans, quite simply, enjoy being scared" (Stuprich 11). The horror writer is able to scare the reader using the following elements:

 

1) Setting is the most important part of a horror story. Without a great setting the reader would never be drawn in enough to be frightened. Stephen King states his opinion that part of making an effective setting in a horror story is to "write what you know" (King2 158). If the writer employs a setting that the reader can relate to in the introduction of the story, then it is far more likely that readers won't reject the fantastic when it is added later: "A story must be anchored solidly in a believable setting. Modern readers expect the horror story to take place in familiar surroundings that provide a mating ground for the natural and the supernatural" (Castle 4). For example in H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Tomb," Lovecraft goes into great detail about the characteristics of the tomb as well as the surrounding forest:

Close by my home there lies a singular wooded hollow, in whose twilight deeps I spent most of my time...down its moss-covered slopes my first steps of infancy were taken, and around its grotesquely gnarled oak trees my first fancies of boyhood were woven...The vault to which I refer is of ancient granite, weathered and discolored by the mists and dampness of generations...The door, a ponderous and forbidding slab of stone hangs upon rusted iron hinges, and is fastened ajar in a queerly sinister way by means of heavy iron chains and padlocks (8).

Lovecraft's very wording makes readers feel a great sense of foreboding. "Twilight deeps," "grotesquely gnarled trees," "discolored by the mists and dampness of generations," "a ponderous and forbidding slab of stone;" these descriptions make readers picture a dark and dangerous place where anything could be lurking. We are already looking over our metaphorical shoulder to see what is behind us.

 

2) A good horror story must also employ the element of suspense. If the plot is so simplistic that it gives away the ending readers will not be drawn into it enough to reach the end. They will become bored and will probably discard the text soon after. However, if the writer builds up suspense in the beginning of the story then readers might just want to read on, turning pages frantically, until they reach the end. Suspense can be reached in a number of ways. Suspense can be built through the setting, through the characters actions, through the plot, or through events. It can either be presented fast and hard keeping readers on the edge of their seats, or more subtly leaving readers coolly curious until they are hit with the climax. Either way, suspense must be present in order to create an effective horror story.

 

3) Believable characters are key to any horror story. Since the subjects explored in horror fiction are often of the fantastic variety, believable characters can help readers willingly suspend their disbelief. Stephen King is highly noted for writing believable characters. Most of his characters suffer from common human faults; they are overweight, they wear glasses, they lack faith in their abilities, they are loners, or they are the typical boy or girl next door, but with all the insecurities you would never imagine the boy or girl next door to have. These seemingly slight nuances are enough to make otherwise stereotypical characters very believable to readers. "A good horror story character is a fictional someone who is every bit as alive and as much a unique individual as anyone we really know really well out there in Reality Land. He must be for readers to care about him. If readers don't care, they will not give a rap about what the character does or what happens to him (Castle 3). Believable characters are also essential to the reader's ability to vicariously experience the character's emotions and dilemmas.

 

4) Good horror writers know how much is too much: "Stories in which characters are merely props to be eaten, drained, eviscerated, sliced, diced and turned into julienne fries by your monstrous "glop," whether it is a vampire, werewolf or the ubiquitous serial killer. These stories aren't just boring; they're insulting to readers who deserve better" (Waggoner 1). Horror writers should go for the "gross out," but they should do so in a way that forces the reader to imagine much of the gore. It is much more fun to use your imagination than to have all the details of the horrific event spoon fed to you. Often times what we imagine to be the worst is much more terrifying than anything a writer could have put upon the page. A good horror story is one that has just the right blend of the gruesome and the implied gore.

 

5) A good horror story always has a killer ending. A good horror story contains an ending which leaves you wanting more, or leaves you questioning how things might have been different if a, b and c had not happened: "A good ending leaves one major question gaping to tease the reader's imagination. A good ending leaves the conscious satisfied but provides the imagination with a puzzle to play with even after leaving the author's fictional realm" (Spurling 3). Typically fans of the genre are not looking for a happy ending, but for an ending that offers an intellectual resolution that is either good or bad or indifferent.

 

What A Horror Story Is Not:

 

1) A horror story is not a science-fiction story, although the two genres may overlap. Science fiction usually concerns itself with more than just the macabre. It normally concerns itself with scientific theories and terms. Science-fiction even makes up its own terms for futuristic technology. A horror story could be set in the future, and it could have science in it, but it is usually more concerned with the presentation of suspense and evil in the form of a monster rather than a principle.

 

2) A horror story is not a true story, but a true story can be horrific.

 

3) A horror story is not a fantasy story. Although a fantasy story may contain a dark castle or an evil witch, the ending normally is a happy one. A horror story normally does not end on a happy note, although that does not mean that the ending lacks resolution.

 

Horror Genre Study in the English Classroom:

 

The following is a compilation of how an educator could approach a genre study of horror fiction in the classroom using a conglomeration of the ideas of Lucy Calkins, Randy Bomer, and Charles R. Cooper.

 

1) Introduction to the Genre:

See Appendix A:

 

Because not all students will be familiar with the horror genre, students will first be introduced to the genre. You can accomplish this by reading a selection of horror stories that you have selected based on theme and literary merit. I would use Edgar Allan Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher," Stephen King's "Jerusalem's Lot," and H.P. Lovecraft's "The Alchemist." All three of the texts deal with the undead. Two of the texts, "The Alchemist" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," deal with the idea of entrapment. (For a list of good short stories and novels in the horror genre to use as classroom texts see Appendix B.) All of the stories have a great presence of setting. It would be very easy for students to see how these stories personify the elements of the horror story. This leads me to the next step in the introductory process, definition and comparison.

 

Students will need to have a working definition of the horror story. This can best be accomplished by asking the students what they think is a good definition of a horror story. You can then expand on the students definition using your knowledge of the horror genre. After the class defines horror, you should list the genres that a horror story is not on the board. Students should compare and contrast horror stories to other genres they have studied in class or are familiar with through the media.

 

Another approach to getting a working definition of the horror story is to have students talk about their favorite horror movies, since in most cases these electronic texts closely follow the written texts they are based upon. It is possible that many students will not be familiar with the horror story as a written text, but that many may be familiar with the horror story in the form of film. You could show short clips from either modern or classic horror movies to illustrate how much gore is appropriate for a horror story. Horror movies present the same basic criteria as the horror story, although horror movies often violate the fourth element of horror and take the "gross out" to the extreme. It is important to make sure that students realize that this is a key difference between the two types of text.

 

You should read aloud to the class the short stories listed above listed above, "The Alchemist," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "Jerusalem's Lot." While you are reading aloud students should take notes on any ideas they have about horror story topics. They can put these notes right in their writer's notebook. A writer's notebook is essential to any writer in helping him/her to generate ideas. It enables the students to have a place to go where they can easily look up ideas that they can later apply to assignments. It would be helpful to let the students see you writing in your writer's notebook. Also, you could pass your writer's notebook around so that the students can use your notebook as a model.

 

After you finish reading the touchstone texts, you should place students in literature circles where they can discuss one of the three texts. Try to group weaker students with stronger students. One student should be picked to record the groups thoughts and another student should be picked by the group to present the group's findings to the class. They will be asked to come up with what they think are the criteria for a good horror story by answering the following questions:

Literal Questions:

1) What is it about the story that makes it feel scary?

2) How is this story different from other stories you have read in class?

3) What was the scariest part of the story?

4) What did you like about the story?

5) What did you dislike about the story?

Critical Questions:

6) If you had to write a horror story, what types of things do you think you would have to include?

7) Was this story believable? If so, how did the author make it believable?

8) What do you think the main point of the story was?

9) How did Poe, Lovecraft, and King create a spooky setting?

10) How is your story similar to the other two stories we read aloud in class?

 

By having the teacher read aloud the stories above, the teacher is actually modeling horror writing styles for the class. Students that struggle with finding a voice for their own horror stories can be encouraged to imitate the style of King, Lovecraft, or Poe. It should be easy for the students to move from hearing the stories to writing them. The questions above and class discussion should enable the class to come up with the elements of good horror stories covered earlier in this paper. After these points have been discussed and written on the board, you should hand out a typed sheet of the elements that the students can put in their notebooks.

 

Next, students will be asked to share any examples they have of horror fiction from their independent reading. If numerous students are familiar with the same text you may take time to discuss whether or not the elements the class outlined are present in this text as well. If any of the texts mentioned during this discussion are adaptable to the school curriculum I would suggest adding them into your horror unit to let students feel that they are in charge of what they read.

 

2) Developing Topics for Student Writing:

At this point, students should have a clear understanding of the elements intrinsic to a horror story. The next step in the genre study will be to apply what they have learned to their own writing. However, it is often difficult for students to decide what topics to write about. In this students should be advised to keep a journal of things that interest them, or which they think are good story topics. Remind students that they should always write about what they know, so their journal entries do not have to have anything to do with horror. Their journal entries will act as a springboard from which they can propel themselves into the horror story.

 

Another approach to helping students develop appropriate topics for their horror stories is through a class topic list. Students can take a few minutes to brainstorm what they think would be good topics for a horror story. Then you (or a student volunteer) can write the topics on the board. This will be a great help to students who need a little bit more to get started. I would use this in combination with the writing journal, because not all students will be able to decide what scenarios can make a good horror story, or they may be unable to choose between their journal entries because of a fear of picking a topic that you might not find acceptable. Letting the students view a list of topics that both the teacher and the students agree upon can act as a safety net for those students that are unsure of themselves.

 

3) The Horror Story Assignment:

Since the horror story contains elements that students may not have been familiar with previous to the genre study, it is important that the directions for the horror story assignment are clear. The assignment should be clearly outlined for the students so that there is no confusion as to what they are expected to do. The assignment should also be accompanied by a rubric which assigns each essential part of the task with a grade weight, so that students are clear on what they are being graded on and how much each part of the task is worth. (See Appendix C for both the assignment and grading rubric)

 

4) Planning:

Now that the horror story assignment has been assigned, give the students an opportunity to talk over their ideas with their peers before they jump into the actual composition of the story. This will be another aid for those students who are having difficulty in generating their own horror scenarios and ideas.

 

 

5) Mini-lessons on the Writing of a Horror Story:

Before going into the teaching of the following mini-lessons, I would remind students of the following criteria which should be followed in writing a horror story (King2 145-180):

1) Read, read, read!!! Write, write, and write!!!

2) Write what you know.

3) Set your story in reality. If the setting isn't believable to begin with, it is hard to lend oneself to a" willing suspension of disbelief."

4) Make your characters believable. You want readers to be able to put themselves into the situation you are creating so that they can experience the emotion you are trying to create (i.e. fear, repulsion...etc.).

5) Use your plot to build suspense.

6) Give readers an ending that either satisfies, makes them think, or leaves them with the light on at 3am. Don't cheat the reader out of a killer ending.

 

A) Mini-lesson #1:

Because students are writing horror stories in a school setting, they need to be taught what is school appropriate and what is not. Although I hate to limit student writing in any way, it will be necessary to set certain guide-lines for students. I think I would make writing a story about violence in the school, or against teachers or themselves (suicide) against the rules. If they don't have these scenarios as topic choices, then they cannot get into trouble with them (and really it does leave them lots of other choices).

 

Next I would talk about having "just the right amount of gore" in their horror story. The purpose of the grotesque in horror fiction is to elicit an emotion, normally of fear, in the reader, but the grotesque does not have to be explicit to get this reaction. As Lovecraft wrote, "Never state a horror when it can be suggested" (Taylor 6). Then I would give them a made up example of both inappropriate and appropriate levels of gore.

 

Inappropriate

A dog in the woods howled in the silent night as Johnny ran for cover from the beast. Johnny was really giving it all he had, but the beast was still right behind him. Suddenly, Johnny tripped on an exposed root and fell. The beast was upon him in seconds. It ripped open his throat and drank his blood while it was warm. It opened up his stomach and pulled out his steaming guts.

 

Appropriate

A dog in the woods howled in the silent night as Johnny ran for cover from the beast. Johnny was really giving it all he had, but the beast was still right behind him. Suddenly, Johnny tripped on an exposed root and fell. The beast was upon him in seconds. Johnny's cry was silenced from a blow from the beast. The silence of the night was interrupted by the sound of the beast's feeding.

 

Both stories portray the same thing, but the second story makes the reader imagine what is happening to Johnny when the beast catches up with him. The first story is way too gory for what students should be producing for a school assignment. I would also encourage students to bring the teacher their papers for review if they think that what they are writing may be too gory so that the teacher can help them tone it down. This lesson should definitely be taught before the first draft of the paper.

 

Here is an example of appropriate gore from a touchstone text that could be used to further illustrate your point:

 

And then there was a huge surge o gray, vibrating flesh. The smell became a nightmare tide. It was a huge outpouring of a viscid pustulant jelly, a huge and awful form that seemed to skyrocket from the very bowels of the ground. And yet, with a sudden horrible comprehension which no man can have know, I perceived that it was but one ring, one segment, of a monster worm that had existed eyeless for years in the chambered darkness beneath that abominated church.

 

The book flared alight in my hands, and the Thing seemed to scream soundlessly above me. Calvin was struck glancingly and flung the length of the church like a doll with a broken neck. (King1 32)

 

This is a great passage to use because it was written by Stephen King and the students expect him to use gore in abundance, but in this story at least he keeps gore to the minimum.

 

 

B) Mini-lesson #2:

Students will probably have the most trouble coming up with a setting that is appropriate for a horror story. The easiest way to help students write a scary setting is to have them model a setting that they have already read in a horror story. We will use the example given earlier in this paper as an appropriate setting to model:

 

Close by my home there lies a singular wooded hollow, in whose twilight deeps I spent most of my time...down its moss-covered slopes my first steps of infancy were taken, and around its grotesquely gnarled oak trees my first fancies of boyhood were woven...The vault to which I refer is of ancient granite, weathered and discolored by the mists and dampness of generations...The door, a ponderous and forbidding slab of stone hangs upon rusted iron hinges, and is fastened ajar in a queerly sinister way by means of heavy iron chains and padlocks (8).

 

First ask students what about this setting makes it a good setting for a horror story. They should answer that it is the language that Lovecraft uses to describe both the wood and the tomb that makes it scary. Words like "twilight deeps," "grotesquely gnarled," and "queerly sinister" give readers a red flag that there is something dark and mysterious about the woods and the tomb within it.

 

The language that Lovecraft uses in his writing may be somewhat sophisticated for students so the next step I would take would be to replace some of Lovecraft's words with more student level words that convey the same meaning. I would accomplish this by having the students volunteer words and by having the students replace the words in the paragraph to then see how it reads.

 

Close by my home there lies a dark wood like no other , in whose shadows I spent most of my time...down its pine needled slopes my first steps of childhood were taken, and around its ancient and twisted oak trees my first daydreams of boyhood were woven...The vault to which I refer is of old stone , weathered and discolored by the storms and sun of generations...The door, a black and pitted door of stone hangs upon rusted iron hinges, and is fastened ajar in a menacing way by means of heavy iron chains and padlocks (8).

 

Here is another example of this exercise from one of the touchstone texts:

 

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. (Poe 1013)

 

During the dampest, saddest, most unpleasant day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung low in the heavens and seemed to bear down upon me, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a lonely and dark piece of country land , and at length found myself as the shadows of evening drew on, within view of the monstrous House of Usher.

 

After the students have finished this modeling assignment, I would then give them the follow up assignment of writing a paragraph about a wood they know which makes it the perfect setting for a horror story. For students who live in a city and may have never seen a wood, I would ask them to write about a local park with which they are familiar. This mini-lesson should be taught after students have selected a topic, but before the first draft of their story.

 

 

C) Mini-lesson #3:

Another difficulty that student may have in writing a horror story is the building of suspense. I would give them the following quote to discuss, "If shock is the blunt instrument, suspense is the surgical scalpel. Suspense is that feeling that something is coming...still coming. It's not here but the reader can sense it, knows it's there, and while it's coming tension is building" ( Spurling 2). It is important to explain to students that suspense has to be built in a story; clues must be given throughout the story in order to make it suspenseful. For this I would have the students talk about "The Fall of the House of Usher," and how Poe builds suspense by making things seem just a little off in the beginning and then by adding bumps and voices in the night. Readers are trying to figure out what is causing the noises and what is wrong in the house until they reach the end.

 

Next I would have students think of two good horror movies that most of the class would know that are really suspenseful. Then as a class students would go through and outline what parts of the movie made it suspenseful. Or I might show movie clips that I think were particularly suspenseful and would provide good models for the students. The suspenseful elements would be written on the board by the teacher or a student volunteer.

 

Lastly, I would ask students to write a suspenseful scene using the following prompt.

"You and you friends are out for the day and you decide to go check out the abandoned amusement park down the street. You get to the amusement park and walk around looking at the old rides. Suddenly the ride you are looking at begins to start on its own even though the amusement park has been closed for the last two years!" This mini-lesson should be taught after students have written their first draft and are in the revision stage of the writing process.

 

D) Mini-lesson #4:

Students need to be taught some type of grammatical concept every time they do a big writing assignment. It is our hope that by providing students with such concepts they can internalize the rules of grammar that they need to apply to their writing. A simple mini-lesson that works well with the horror story is the prepositional phrase. You can teach students prepositions and prepositional phrases by giving them a list of prepositions and a passage from one of the touchstone texts. Ask the students to circle all of the prepositions and put parenthesis around all of the prepositional phrases. You should model how to do this on the first sentence, and then ask students to finish the rest of the passage on their own.

 

(Of my exact age) even down ( to days and hours), I kept a most careful record, ( for each movement) ( of the pendulum) ( of the massive clock) ( in the library) told off so much ( of my doomed existence). ( At length), I approached that time which I had so long viewed ( with apprehension). ( Since most of my ancestors had been seized some little while before they reached the exact age ( of Count Henri) ( at his end)), I was every moment ( on the watch) ( for the coming) ( of the unknown death). ( In what strange form the curse should overtake me), I knew not; but I was resolved ( at least) that it should not find me a cowardly or a passive victim. ( With new vigour), I applied myself ( to my examination) ( of the old chateau and its contents). (Lovecraft 152)

 

Students will quickly realize that prepositions are essential parts of the writing system. They should be able to identify that the prepositions add detail to the writing and that introductory prepositional phrases are followed by a comma. This mini-lesson will be a great help for students struggling with adding detail to their writing, and it will also help the students learn an easy comma rule. This mini-lesson should be taught right before the final draft, where students will be paying attention to editing level errors.

 

6) Peer Review:

The students should be prepared for writing their own horror story now that the previous mini-lessons have been covered. But no matter how skilled the students are in their writing assignment, there is always a need for peer review.

 

In the case of the horror story, peer review would be an essential part of the writing process. Some students may not have developed their setting well enough to create a creepy atmosphere for their story and a peer could help them realize this. Other students may have gone over the top with their goriness, but not realize it and their fellow students could point this out in peer review before the draft was turned in. Yet other students may have a really good grasp of plot, setting, suspense etc., but a weak grasp of writing conventions and a peer could yet again help to point this out. Use the following peer review questions for this exercise (also located in Appendix C):

 

1) Does the story have a clear beginning, middle, and end?

2) Does the story fit our definition of a horror story?

3) Does the story have a spooky setting?

4) Does the story have suspense?

5) Does the story have believable characters?

6) Does the story have just the right amount of gore?

7) Does the story have a killer ending?

8) Does the story have a lot of typos or grammar issues?

9) Is the story original and creative?

10) What do you feel was the best part of the story?

11) Is there anything you think the author should change about their story? If so what should they change and why?

 

After peer review, students will then be asked to revise and turn in their horror stories. The teacher will then review the drafts and turn them back to the students for one more revision before the final grade and publishing.

 

7) Publishing:

It is important that students know that they are working towards a goal in their writing. Simply writing a story to get a good grade is not enough. The easiest way to encourage student dedication is to tell them that their final draft will be published. I would recommend publishing students horror stories in a horror story anthology that you would compile and then given to every member of the class. This may cost you some of your hard earned salary in publishing fees, but the reward of seeing students who are proud and really own their work will be well worth the cost.

 

Also, I would talk to school administrators about possible publication of the best student horror stories to be distributed around Halloween as long as the stories are deemed school appropriate (which by this point they should be). In this case the students could make a Halloween magazine to share with all of the school. If you are teaching your horror unit late in the year after Halloween has come and gone, then publish for the following Halloween.

 

Lastly, having a contest within the class for the best horror story would be a great incentive for students. Students could read their stories out loud to the class. The students listening to the stories could cast secret ballots on whose stories they thought were the very best. The students with the three best stories would get prizes and have their stories posted on the English department bulletin board. And the whole class could have a party on the awards day just so all of the students feel a sense of accomplishment and worth even if their story didn't win a prize.

 

8) Reflection Lesson:

The students now know the horror genre inside and out. They know what is expected of the writer and the expectations that readers have when entering the genre. At this point it is a good idea to review with students what genres the horror story is not. They can make comparisons between true stories, science-fiction stories, fantasy stories and the horror story. This could be aided by the use of Venn diagram for each of the comparing genres and horror fiction. This concluding approach to the horror genre can act as a spring board into other genre studies of closely related genres.

 

9) Lesson on Regents Essay Writing:

The students can use horror stories that they have read in their preparation for the New York State Regents Exam. On the regents the students are asked to do a critical analysis essay. In this essay they are given a quote and asked to identify the quote's meaning and then apply the meaning, using literary elements, to two texts that they have read. There are many horror stories which would be appropriate for this assignment, especially those by Edgar Allan Poe. You can find an example of this Regents component and a grading rubric for this assignment in Appendix D (see assignment, p21).

 

Conclusion:

Contrary to the belief of some educators, the horror story is a valid and teachable literary genre. It not only presents common themes in an exciting and readable way to students, but it allows for a bridge into other genres like fantasy, true stories, and science fiction. The horror story has been a part of American culture since the late 1700s and its value as an educational tool should not be ignored. As Lovecraft writes, "Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse" (31). Fear is a common emotion among humans, and as long as it continues to be a human emotion there will be writers to confront fears through words. For a list of texts relevant to the teaching of horror fiction see, Appendix B.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

 

Bomer, Randy. "A Curriculum for English". Time For Meaning; crafting Literate Lives in Middle and High School . Heinemann Publishing: New Hampshire, 1995.

 

Calkins, Lucy McCormick. "Genre Studies". The Art of Teaching Writing . Heinemann Publishing: New Hampshire, 1994.

 

Castle, Mort. "Reality and the Waking Nightmare: Setting and Character in Horror Fiction". 1987-2001.

 

Collings, Michael R. "King in the Classroom". Reading Stephen King; Issues of Censorship, Student Choice, and Popular Literature . National Council of Teachers of English: Illinois, 1997.

 

Cooper, Charles R. "What We Know about Genres, and How it Can Help Us Assign and Evaluate Writing". Evaluating Writing . National Council of Teachers of English: Illinois, 1999.

 

Dickson, Randi. "Horror: To Gratify, Not Edify". Language Arts 76.2 (November 1998): 115-122.

 

Jolliffe, David A. "Genre". Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition; communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age . Garland Publishing, Inc.: New York & London, 1996.

 

King, Stephen. On Writing; A Memoir of the Craft . Scribner: New York, 2000.

 

Lovecraft, H.P. "The Appeal of the Unknown". Horror . Greenhaven Press: California, 2001.

 

Lovecraft, H.P. The Tomb and Other Tales . Ballantine Books: New York, 1965.

 

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Fall of the House of Usher". Fictions . Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers: New York, 1985.

 

Spurling, Richard. "How to Make Horror Scary". Fiction Factor . Online. 2000-2004.

www.fictionfactor.com

 

Spurling, Richard. "Why Horror Scares Us". Fiction Factor. Online. 2004.

www.fictionfactor.com

 

Stewart, Susan. "The Epistemology of the Horror Story". Journal of American Folklore . Vol. 95, N. 375, 1982.

 

Stuprich, Michael. ed. "Introduction: The Art of Horror". Horror . Greenhaven Press: California, 2001.

 

Stuprich, Michael. ed. "Evolution of the Horror Story". Horror . Greenhaven Press: California, 2001.

 

Taylor, David. "Part I: The Seeds of Horror". No Bones About It: How to Write Today's Horror . Online. 2003. www.writing-world.com

 

Taylor David. "Part II: What Today's Readers Want". No Bones About It: How to Write Today's Horror . Online. 2004. www.writing-world.com

 

Waggoner, Tim. "The Horror of It All". Writing Tips . Horror Writers Association: 2004 Online. www.hwa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix A:

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HORROR STORY :

 

What is a horror story?

A horror story is a story that presents situations in a way that elicits an emotion in readers. This emotion is usually a negative emotion like that of fear or revulsion. It is the writer's intent that the reader should experience such emotions as a means of conquering them.

 

"We walk through all the days and nights of our lives terrified. Of the world that surrounds us, of one another , of the unknown of ourselves. Fear is the hammer that leaves us stunned and speechless. Fear is the goad that sends us to places we fear to be in, to find out things we're scared witless to know. Fear." (Stuprich 32)

 

The horror story turns the normal and mundane into the fantastic.

 

How Does Horror Writing Differ From Other Forms of Writing?

* A horror story is not a science-fiction story, although the two genres may overlap. Science fiction usually concerns itself with more than just the macabre. It normally concerns itself with scientific theories and terms. Science-fiction even makes up its own terms for futuristic technology. A horror story could be set in the future, and it could have science in it, but it is usually more concerned with the presentation of suspense and evil in the form of a monster rather than a principle.

 

* A horror story is not a true story, but a true story can be horrific.

 

* A horror story is not a fantasy story. Although a fantasy story may contain a dark castle or an evil witch, the ending normally is a happy one. A horror story normally does not end on a happy note, although that does not mean that the ending lacks resolution.

 

The Literature Circle:

Step #1:

Assemble into three groups; one group for each of the following stories: "The Fall of the House of Usher", "Jerusalem's Lot", and "The Alchemist". Answer the following questions in your group:

Literal Questions:

1) What is it about the story that makes it feel scary?

2) How is this story different from other stories you have read in class?

3) What was the scariest part of the story?

4) What did you like about the story?

5) What did you dislike about the story?

Critical Questions:

6) If you had to write a horror story, what types of things do you think you would have to include?

7) Was this story believable? If so, how did the author make it believable?

8) What do you think the main point of the story was?

9) How did Poe, Lovecraft, and King create a spooky setting?

10) How is your story similar to the other two stories we read aloud in class?

 

 

Step# 2:

Select a person to take notes for the group and to present the findings to the class.

 

Step #3:

The groups share their findings with the class so that the class can diagram common elements of the horror story on the board.

Common Elements:

____________________________

____________________________

____________________________

____________________________

____________________________

 

The following are copies of the previously mentioned texts I used as touchstones:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix B:

 

Possible Keystone Horror Stories:

"Jerusalem's Lot" by Stephen King

"The Alchemist" by H.P. Lovecraft

"The Tomb" by H.P. Lovecraft

"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Cask of the Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

"The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence

"Thus I Refute Beezly" by John Collier

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

 

Possible Teachable Horror Novels

Frankenstein , by Mary Shelley

Dracula , by Bram Stoker

A Christmas Carol , by Charles Dickens

The Long Walk , by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon , Stephen King

Lost Boy; Lost Girl , by Peter Straub

The Thief of Always , by Clive Barker

(The following are suggestions of Horror Fiction for Young Adults from

http://www.mcl.org/ys/bibhorficya.html )

Midget , by Tim Bowler

The Gathering, by Isobelle Carmody

I am the Cheese , by Robert Cormier

I Know What You Did Last Summer , by Lois Duncan

Gallows Hill , by Lois Duncan

A Fate Totally Worse than Death , by Paul Fleischmann

The Fat Man , by Maurice Gee

Look for Me by Moonlight, by Mary Downing Hahn

The Invitation , by Diane Hoh

Del-Del , by Victor Kelleher

The Silver Kiss , by Annette Curtis Klause

At the Mountains of Madness , by H.P. Lovecraft

Whispers from the Dead , by Joan Lowery Nixon

Remember Me , by Christopher Pike

The Body of Christopher Creed , by Carol Plum-Ucci

The White Mercedes , by Philip Pullman

The Girl in the Box , by Quida Sebestyen

The Babysitter , by R.L. Stine

Follow a Shadow , by Robert Swindells

Never Trust a Dead Man, by Vivian Vande Velde

Calling All Monsters , by Chris Westwood

Time Fix and Other Tales of Terror , by Don L. Wulffson

Urban Horrors , edited by William Nolan and Martin Greenberg

The Doom Stone , by Paul Zindel

 

*** Remember to get approval from your administrator before beginning to teach any text.***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix C:

 

Horror Story Assignment:

 

By now you should be familiar with the elements that make up a horror story as well as what a horror story is not. Now it is time to put your knowledge to the test. Select a topic from your writer's journal or from topics presented in class and turn that topic into a horror story. Don't forget to add the following elements to your story: suspense, believable characters, a spooky setting, appropriate gore, and a killer ending.

 

Your horror story should:

*be 3-6 pages in length, double spaced. (I know this assignment can be fun and it is tempting to just keep writing if you do not think you can limit your story to six pages, please see me.)

*make readers feel some sort of emotion like fear or revulsion or relief because they are safe.

*be school appropriate. Do not include too much gore in your story. Remember the best horror scenes are ones that the reader has to imagine.

 

Due Dates:

Draft #1 is due__________________

Peer Review is due ___________________

Revision #1 or Draft #2 is due _____________________

Final or Draft #3 is due__________________________

 

 

Peer Review Questions:

 

1) Does the story have a clear beginning, middle, and end?

2) Does the story fit our definition of a horror story?

3) Does the story have a spooky setting?

4) Does the story have suspense?

5) Does the story have believable characters?

6) Does the story have just the right amount of gore?

7) Does the story have a killer ending?

8) Does the story have a lot of typos or grammar issues?

9) Is the story original and creative?

10) What do you feel was the best part of the story?

11) Is there anything you think the author should change about their story? If so what should they change and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubric for the Grading of Student Horror Story:

The following rubric should act as a guideline when you are writing your horror story. You will be graded on the following:

 

6 excellent work

5 good work

4 acceptable/satisfactory work

3 needs work, but signs of student effort are present

2 minimal effort has been made

1 unsatisfactory work

 

 

________ Meaning: The horror story shows that the student understood the assignment, and supported it effectively.

________ Development: The student uses specific and relevant examples of the elements of the horror story.

________ Organization: The story shows direction, shape, and coherence (the story makes sense and follows a clear outline with continuity from beginning to end)

________ Language: The student is aware of both the audience and the purpose of the story and uses appropriate, effective language throughout the essay to develop sentence structure and sentence variety.

________ Conventions: The student shows a good grasp of standard writing conventions (i.e. grammar, spelling, vocabulary, verb tense, capitalization, and punctuation)

______ There is a spooky setting

______ There is a building of suspense in the story

______ The characters in the story are believable

______ The story has a killer ending

______ The story has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

______ The student's story elicits an intended emotion in the reader.

______ The story is appropriate for a school setting, i.e. not too much gore

______ The story is original and creative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix D:

 

Preparing for the New York State Regents Part B: Critical Analysis Essay

 

 

Compose an essay in which you discuss two of the stories we discussed in class in reference to the quote listed below (one from the horror story genre and one from another genre covered in class). In your essay, provide a valid interpretation of the quote, agree or disagree with the quote as you have interpreted it, and support your opinion using specific reference to appropriate literary elements from the chosen stories.

 

Critical Lens:

 

"Literature opens a dark window on the soul, revealing more about what is bad in human nature than what is good"

 

Guidelines:

*Provide a valid interpretation of the critical lens that clearly relates to the works you are going to discuss.

*Indicate whether you agree or disagree with the quote as you have interpreted it.

*Use specific references to appropriate literary elements (theme, characterization, setting, language, plot, etc.) to develop and support your essay.

*Organize your ideas in a logical and coherent manner.

*Give the titles and the authors of the stories you choose.

*Follow the conventions of standard written English.

 

 

Rubric for grading Critical Analysis Essay:

 

 

6 excellent work

5 good work

4 acceptable/satisfactory work

3 needs work, but signs of student effort are present

2 minimal effort has been made

1 unsatisfactory work

 

 

________ Meaning: Essay shows that the student understood the quote and interpreted it in a manner that shows both effort and thought in relating it to the stories chosen.

________ Development: The student uses specific and relevant examples from the texts to support his/her interpretation of the quote.

________ Organization: The essay shows direction, shape, and coherence (the essay makes sense and follows a clear outline with continuity from beginning to end)

________ Language: The student is aware of both the audience and the purpose of the essay and uses appropriate, effective language throughout the essay to develop sentence structure and sentence variety.

________ Conventions: The student shows a good grasp of standard writing conventions (i.e. grammar, spelling, vocabulary, verb tense, capitalization, and punctuation)

 

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