Short Story Bootcamp: Writing Assignment

Now that you and your cohort have had an opportunity to read and discuss your selected short story, it is time to move to the final skill of the bootcamp: writing a literary analysis paper. Using a retired AP prompt as a guide, you will will select and analyze specific textual evidence from your story in order to support a coherent thesis.
  1. Choose a character and write an essay in which you (a) briefly describe the standards of the fictional society in which the character exists and (b) show how the character is affected by and responds to those standards.
  2. Identify a specific inanimate object (e.g., a seashell, a handkerchief, a painting) that is important in your story, and write an essay in which you show how two or three of the purposes the object serves are related to one another.
  3. The significance of a title such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is so easy to discover. However, in other works (for example, Measure for Measure) the full significance of the title becomes apparent to the reader only gradually. Show how the significance of the title of your story is developed through the author’s use of devices such as contrast, repetition, allusion, and point of view.
  4. An effective literary work does not merely stop or cease; it concludes. In the view of some critics, a work that does not provide the pleasure of significant closure has terminated with an artistic fault. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive in every sense; significant closure may require the reader to abide with or adjust to ambiguity and uncertainty. In an essay, explain precisely how and why the ending of your story appropriately or inappropriately concludes the work.
  5. Choose an implausible or strikingly unrealistic incident or character in your story. Write an essay that explains how the incident or character is related to the more realistic or plausible elements in the rest of the work.
  6. Select a moment or scene in your story that you find especially memorable. Write an essay in which you identify the line or the passage, explain its relationship to the work, and analyze the reasons for its effectiveness.
While you can analyze the nonfiction pieces in AP Language and Composition using the rhetorical triangle (Purpose/Audience/Speaker), literary works require a different approach. A literary work rarely has a stated or implied purpose the way an essay or editorial will; instead, a literary work will more likely explore a universal theme or idea of some kind, like coming of age, sacrifice, epiphany, etc. Your essay should focus on what the author is employing (point of view, setting, specific diction, etc.), how that tool is being used (look for patterns of words/phrases, how the story structure reveals information, where in the narrative or dialogue the technique is being employed, etc.), and why (what point about love/honor/growth or what have you is the author intending to make).
Here’s an example of the what—>how—>why relationship applied to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”:


Vonnegut’s fantastic imagery (what) reaches its climax when Harrison and his chosen empress abandon “Not only…the laws of the land…, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well” and “leap like deer on the moon.” (how – examples from text) These improbable actions underscore the absurdity of their situation and the lengths people are willing to go to overcome it. (why)

Because your paper should be limited to two pages, choose your evidence carefully. Remember, you are not expected to comment on every aspect of your selected story. Focus on selecting multiple examples from the text that support your thesis. Avoid the “drive-by” reference (Hey, look! A symbol! On to the next paragraph…). Your goal should be to create a persuasive case for your answer to the prompt, revealed through your reading/interpretation of the story and its construction.


  1. Your cohort is encouraged to mark your story text and comment using a Google Doc through Collaborations in Canvas. 
  2. Cohort members should assist each other in the writing process by providing feedback, answering questions, and suggesting evidence to support an individual writer’s chosen prompt.
  3. Final papers must follow standard rules for formal paper submission. The first page of the document should list your name, name of course and instructor, and the date. Your last name and page number go in the document header. The whole paper should be in 12 pt., left-justified, and double-spaced. You don’t have to use TNR, but you do need to choose a professional-looking, readable typeface–this is a paper, not a party invitation. If you do not know how to format documents properly, ASK. A title is not required, but an appropriate and thoughtful one is welcome. Name your file Bootcamp QuestionNumber LastName: Bootcamp Q3 Smith, for example.
  4. Papers will be scored using the AP 6-point scale.
  5. Papers are due Wednesday, September 16 to Canvas by 11:59 pm. At midnight, your grade turns into a pumpkin.

As always, if you have questions, see me. Happy writing!

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