1,800 words (approx. 7.5 pages; word count is more important than the page count)
–FILM: 7 minutes or longer
MINIMUM NUMBER OF SOURCES (Essay only):
• Discuss TWO works from class. (You may add ADDITIONAL works, either from inside
or outside of class, but an essay must include a thorough discussion of at least two works
• And at least TWO secondary sources. (An outside article/blog/opinion that supports your
argument or you refute in your paper. Wikipedia and dictionaries are not appropriate
sources. You may add additional sources for background, but make sure TWO sources
address the class works directly.)
• You may write about either Get Out or Us, but do not turn in an essay simply comparing and contrasting the two Jordan Peele films.
You may choose between three types of assignments:
a.) Essay OR:
b.) Creative Writing OR:
c.) Short Film
Based on the books, literature and films we have studied so far—or similar horror works
you find during your research — craft an essay discussing your understanding of the themes in the black horror aesthetic and their meaning, context and/or effectiveness. You should refer to the
course work and at least two sources — which would include quoting from the works themselves.
(Outside scholarship is required — TWO articles or blog posts, for example — but you must
discuss at least two class works even if they don’t have equal weight.) Be as specific as possible.
POSSIBLE APPROACHES: You may write a compare and contrast essay about two or
more of the works we have studied (or comparing a work we have studied to another outside of
class); an analysis of two or more works; or present a specific argument (i.e. argumentative
essay) that you then use your analysis of works to bolster.
You should have a thesis statement in your first paragraph and lay out your subtopics.
Each paragraph introducing a new subject or idea should have a topic sentence.
Assignments MUST be emailed as a Word document (or Word compatible)
of PDF. You must write DOUBLE-SPACED in a 12-pt font, preferably Times New Roman. The
word count will be weighed more heavily than the page count, so do not rely upon specialty fonts
to increase your page count.
Again, it is best to use Times New Roman. Essays may be formatted
in MLA or APA style, but all citations should be cited in a Works Cited page.
DEADLINE: You will receive full credit for turning your paper in on time as long as I receive it by midnight PST on March 11. Late papers will be marked down.
Here are some prompts (though you may choose your own topics):
• Discuss how Jordan Peele’s film Get Out illustrates racism by using a horror/science fiction premise with society and racism as the monster. YOU MUST DISCUSS
MORE THAN ONE WORK FROM CLASS IN YOUR ANALYSIS.
• Compare the use of vodou in the class works. Discuss the difference in ways vodou is
used to evoke fear as opposed to depicting true faith.
• Discuss the ways zombies are used in class works. What do zombies represent? How
is race used within storytelling about zombies?
• RACISM plays a role in several works, including “Wet Pain,” Tales from the Hood,
The Good House, Beloved, “The Devil in America,” etc. Discuss the role of
racism/white supremacy as a monster.
• Discuss the role of BLACK WOMEN in horror films and works, i.e. The Girl with All
the Gifts and The Good House.
• Discuss the role of SLAVERY in horror films and works, i.e. Beloved, etc. YOU
MUST DISCUSS MORE THAN ONE CLASS WORK FOR THIS TOPIC.
• Discuss vampirism in black horror, including works like Blacula, “Loneliness is In
Your Blood” and/or Ganja and Hess.
• Discuss the role of HAUNTING in black horror works we have studied, as in Beloved
, Tales from the Hood and/or “Vulcanization.”
This guide is not more detailed because all of you probably have written 1,800 word
essays by now. However, also visit the Writing Center and research your questions online. One
sample comprehensive source:
Here is their link to “Writing Expository Essays” —
CREATIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENT / SHORT FILM ASSIGNMENT:
Instead of writing an essay (nonfiction), you have the option of writing a short story
or making a short film instead. Your story needs to be a minimum of 7 pages. (For a film, a
minimum of 7 minutes.)
IMPORTANT: In addition to your short story or film, you must also turn in a
500word RATIONALE explaining your creative choices:
YOUR RATIONALE MUST INCLUDE:
• How does your work address at least 3 black horror thematic elements from
class, i.e. visibility/addressing racial erasure in horror, white supremacy,
retribution, ritual and magic, ancestors, morality tales, bondage/slavery, etc.
Since this is in lieu of a final exam, cite specific work(s) we studied in class for
each theme. USE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES FROM CLASS WORKS.
• What was the point of your story?
• What will happen next? (If the work is incomplete after 7 pages/7 minutes)
NOTE: THE EXERCISES BELOW ARE GUIDELINES –NOT REQUIRED
Please do not consider this to be the “easy” assignment, since writing fiction is not
easy—especially for beginners. Don’t plan to turn in a hastily written short story or hastily
created film. Your story/film must be well thought out, and your characters should have depth. I
do not recommend this assignment if you have never before written fiction, but if you are
inexperienced and want to discuss a premise with me, I will be happy to advise you.
Having said that, you will not be judged on the literary value of your fiction or the
production values of your film. Instead, you will be judged on whether or not your story fits the
criteria set forth in the rubric: a well thought-out horror PREMISE (i.e. “What if the only
zombies were black?”), an interesting PROTAGONIST with a CHALLENGE to overcome, and
a THEME inspired by the issues and works we have discussed in class.
GENERAL FICTION PRINCIPLES AND WORKSHEET:
The key to writing quality fiction lies at the intersection between the magic of inspiration
and the science of work and structure. Often, writers feel the inspiration of a premise and begin
to sketch out a story, but they run into a block because they have not created the character/s who
will bring the story to life.
Through CHARACTER, you establish the machinations of Story—since a successful
story is not usually about WHAT HAPPENS, it’s about WHAT YOUR CHARACTER DOES.
A basic story sketch might begin this way.
PREMISE: In horror, a premise is usually the driving inspiration, answering a “What if?”
question. In my novel The Good House, the premise is: What would happen if you called out a
demon you can’t control?
What is your story’s premise? _________________________________
As you can see, that’s a long way from a story, however.
That’s because we’re missing CHARACTER. For the purposes of this exercise, you may limit
your characters to one—with the understanding that you are likely to have more than one
character in your story.
Using the example from my novel The Good House. I will sketch the character
of Angela. In my sketch, I will mention her name, how old she is, and her DILEMMA. (It’s not
enough for a character to exist in your story; he or she must exist for a reason.)
Angela is a 40-something talent agent with a teenage son, Corey, and a husband she’s separated
from, Tariq. When she returns to her childhood home in Sacajawea and her son mysteriously
shoots himself, she must uncover the inter-generational secret of her grandmother’s magic to
save herself and everyone she loves.
Who is your story’s main character? What is his/her dilemma?
PLOT/ STORY STRUCTURE:
What is the rough order of events in your story?
Rather than starting your story with a lot of background exposition, try starting at a moment of
conflict or crisis, whether it’s big or small. That will help you accelerate a sense of momentum
early. For the horror element, be sure to add a sense of DREAD or MENACE.
Here is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s (Heroine’s) Journey as a model of what story beats often look
like. (However, bear in mind that not all stories will appear to follow The Hero’s Journey):
A very short story might only include ONE of these elements (guideline only):
–The Hero/Heroine is presented with a challenge
–The Heroine rejects the challenge
–The Heroine accepts the challenge
–The Heroine sets out on the Road of Trials
–The Heroine gains Allies and Powers
–The Heroine has his/her initial CONFRONTATION WITH EVIL and is DEFEATED
–The Heroine enters the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
–The Heroine takes the LEAP OF FAITH
–The Heroine CONFRONTS EVIL AGAIN and is VICTORIOUS (this doesn’t always happen
in horror, to be honest)
–The student becomes the teacher.
Given as much as you know now, describe the general story beats in your idea. Try to imagine
where your story MIGHT end:
Share your story beats with others in the class. Share them with friends and family. Does it sound
like a compelling story when you describe it to them? If listeners point out consistent
weaknesses, try to come up with solutions to the issues that emerge.
HOW TO BUILD A CHARACTER:
Because characterization is so essential to powerful storytelling, I suggest that you begin there.
Some of your plot elements may change when you know your character better.
I suggest a CHARACTER SKETCH where you force yourself to walk in your character’s shoes
even before your story begins—an exercise that might turn into a scene in your story.
Here are some areas to think about as you create a character sketch:
–Age, occupation, education, political leanings and interests, religious/philosophical beliefs,
socioeconomic background (childhood/present), home country or region (childhood/present),
most important familial relationships (negative/positive), most important friendships
(negative/positive). What other elements might you include in a character sketch?
REMEMBER: Your resume and character sketch are for YOU, the author—not necessarily the
reader. Once the character becomes three-dimensional, some would suggest that you don’t look
at the sketch again. But at the very least, you should fight the temptation to have long paragraphs
of dry character traits and history. SHOW US how your character has been shaped by the
experiences; don’t simply recount them. You might use only a small percentage of what you
discover while you sketch your character in broad strokes.
Think of back story as seasoning rather than substance: your meal might taste great with salt and
pepper, but if you dump the whole bottle in at once, you overwhelm the meal and ruin the flavor.
Here are some principles (not rules) to remember in CHARACTERIZATION:
• YOU must believe in your characters before your reader will.
• A character is not compelling because of what happens to him/her—a character is compelling
because of the way he/she responds to challenges, setbacks and adversity.
• Beware of writing “witness” characters who do not themselves grow or change.
• Characters must show who they are through photographable action.
• Do not fall prey to “author convenience,” where a character is acting out your needs instead of
Only TWO STUDENTS per project may receive credit for any short film. Each student must
write a SEPARATE rationales explaining the project and how it relates to the topics we have
discussed in class.
As a low-budget filmmaker, you’ll want to stay away from elaborate scenes and special effects
and concentrate on premise-driven and acting-driven films. Establish a CHARACTER and a
DILEMMA just as you would with a short story, not just a series of “scary” shots. (Fear only
works if we’re afraid for SOMEONE.)
You must turn in an EDITED film, not raw footage. Tell a story with the sequence of shots.
I suggest writing a SCREENPLAY for your film: try www.writerduet.com for a free
screenwriting program you can also “share” to your actors and crew members. (But this
assignment will be graded on the FILM, not the SCREENPLAY.)
Here’s my blog post on how to shoot and edit a film on your iPhone: (I also strongly suggest
downloading footage and using a laptop-based editing system, but I only used my phone.)
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