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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Section H. WRITING TO LITERATURE Prewriting Activities


Prewriting Activities for Section H.: Many of the activities in this page are for writing an interpretive thesis of literature or a literary review.  However, many of them can be easily adapted to prewriting activities for an analysis of the elements or a critical literary analysis.


Group Exercises

1. As a group, make an unusual interpretation of a literary work you have all read; then support your interpretation. Break into groups of three to five people and choose group roles: coordinator/timer, writer, reader (and minutes keeper). Then, as a group, pick a very unusual, strange, unique, or wild interpretation of a literary work or part of it. Provide reasons and detailed proofs from the literary work. (If there is time, you may pass this interpretive literary thesis to another group. Then you may criticize the literary thesis passed to you in turn: explain why and how it is wrong by offering your own reasons and details from the literary work which refute the literary thesis.) Read the results aloud.

2. Practice the divisions of a literary thesis by using circle sentencing. Do this as a whole class. First, everyone should get out a sheet of lined paper, write "1. I would argue that the literary work we have just read is like ____," and fill in the blank with an interesting, unusual, silly, or strong word or phrase.

Second, everyone should pass this paper to the next person clockwise or in his/her row, read the new paper in front of her, then write "2. The first reason the above argument is true is because ____," and fill in the blank.

Third, everyone should pass the paper to the next person again, read the new paper before him or her, and then write "3. This reason is illustrated in the work by ____."

The papers should continue to be passed around so that one sentence at a time is added. #4 will be "A second reason the above argument is true is because...." #5 will be "This reason is illustrated in the work by...." #6 will be a third reason, #7 will be an illustration of it, etc. Read the more interesting results aloud.

3. First, choose roles, then make up an imaginary book to review that you all have read and hate. Write the name of the book and its author and write a realistic 50-word advertising blurb for the back cover. Next, write a biography of the author. Finally, write a section each of description (be completely factual), interpretation (offer several), and evaluation (offer several) using the directions from this chapter.

4. Do the same as in #2 above with a real literary work or movie.

5. Practice the divisions of a literary review by reviewing this course as a group. Divide into groups with roles as above. Then use descriptions, interpretations, and evaluations step by step from the chapter, above, to describe, interpret, and evaluate this course.

6. Practice the divisions of a review by using circle sentencing. Do this as a whole class. First, everyone should get out a sheet of lined paper and write "1. I would evaluate [the name of a famous movie star] as [an emotional feeling]. Fill in the blanks with the name of a star everyone knows and a strong emotional reaction.

Second, everyone should pass this paper to the next person clockwise or in his/her row, read the new paper in front of her, then write "2. Here is a completely logical description of this star's appearance: ____," and fill in the blank.

Third, everyone should pass the paper to the next person again, read the new paper before him or her, and then write "3. Here is factual description of this star's personality: ____," and fill in the blank.

Then you should pass the paper and read it again, and this time the new reader should write "4. Here is a factual description of this star's acting: ____," and fill in the blank.

   The paper should be passed and read several more times and several more sentences should be added: step 5 is "Here is one possible interpretation of this person's acting: ____," step 6 is a second possible interpretation, and step 7 is a third possible interpretation. Then steps 8, 9, and 10 are one possible evaluation each (preferably each is quite different) of this person's acting (using the list of evaluative categories from the "Organizing" section). Step 11 is a final evaluative conclusion that repeats the initial evaluative statement.

7. Practice proper citation and punctuation of quotations using circle sentencing. Start by using the same exercise as above in #2, and by beginning with the same #1 sentence. Pass the papers as above, then for the #2 sentence and each sentence after that, write a quote with the author first, the quote in quotation marks, and the page number afterward, which helps prove the #1 sentence. Pass the papers after each sentence has been written. Read the more interesting results.

8. Evaluate each other's papers in groups before grading. Number off into groups of four to five people. Using grading guidelines given to you by your instructor (or the "Contents" and "Organization" sections of the "Checklist" near the end of this chapter), evaluate whether each other's papers are ready for grading or need revising in each of the grading-guideline categories. You may help evaluate others’ papers even if yours is not ready or, for some reason, you do not wish to share it. Read two or three papers by others, and make written comments about the papers (or on a separate sheet of paper) for their authors to take home. At home, review what others have said about your paper. Pay attention in particular to comments that may have been repeated.

9. Write an interpretive thesis about an imaginary novel:

(1) Break into groups. Select a coordinator, writer, and reader (and a timer if there are four of you). Timers and/or coordinators, watch the time, and pace your people.

(2) Make up a really strange, unusual, different, or weird novel (a book of fiction): write the author's name, the title, and a sentence summarizing the book's story.

(3) Describe in a sentence each the (a) main character, (b) secondary character, (c) any other characters; the setting including (d) the general time and place and (e) the specific main spots/locations where the novel's action happens; (f) the main problem and (g) its solution or resolution in the end; and (h) the general style, tone, or format of the novel (e.g., rich, lush description"; "spare, taut prose"; "long on action but short on thought"; etc.).

(4) Next, make up a serious or silly argument sentence--a debating position, belief, or idea--you can use to show or prove that the novel can be seen or understood in a certain way. Examples of such argument sentences are as follows. Make up your own and write it down. The more inventive and creative you are, the better.

(a) "This novel demonstrates feminist (or racist or fascist, etc.) beliefs."
(b) "The secret or hidden meaning of this novel is that ____."
(c) "Paranoid (or crazy or psychopathic-killer, etc.) people might interpret this novel to mean ____."
(d) "The most important meaning to life (or love or hate or fun, etc.) is ____. We can see a great amount of evidence of this meaning in this novel."

(5) Now write down three methods, proofs, or places in the novel that you can use to prove your argument sentence. Write them as follows: 

"This argument is true because of (a) ____, (b) ____, and (c) ____."

(6) Next, use each of these three items (a, b, and c in #5) as complete topic sentences (e.g., "The first reason our argument is true is that [a]").  After the topic sentence for each, write 50+ words proving your point, using plenty of quotations. The quotations will show exactly where and how in the novel your point is proven. (Write at least 150 words total.)

(7) If you have time, write a stirring conclusion that restates your main argument, and add one last, excellent quotation from the novel that does an excellent job of proving your overall argument.

(8) Read your results to the class.

Individual Exercises

10. Journaling/prewriting about a literary reading: Respond to one or more of these suggestions (can be done in a group or as an individual):

1. Explain what the best and worst parts were of the process of reading this literary work, and why (i.e., was this literary work difficult to read, easy, or what--and why?).

2. Explain what the best and worst parts are of the final result--how you feel afterward, what you know that is new, what you have always known that has been reinforced and why, and perhaps what you now know but perhaps wish you didn't--and why.

3. If you had this work to read over again, what would you change, what would you keep the same, and why?

4. Name some people with whom you would share this book, and some with whom you would not, and in each case, why.

5. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this literary work? Why do these strengths and weaknesses exist? How, possibly, could this work be written to get rid of the weaknesses?

6. Discuss how and why you think this literary reading was chosen to be part of the course and/or part of the college reader in which it is found. If you were to replace it with a different reading for this course, what reading would you choose and why?

11. Journaling/prewriting about this WSW chapter: Keeping a journal about your reading of this chapter is an excellent method of thinking about it and preparing to write the paper it describes. Here are some journaling techniques you can try individually or together:

1. What information in this chapter is new to you, what is old, and what information helps you make connections to other classes or to people, work, or personal experience? In your opinion, what were the points most helpful to you, and what ones were the least helpful? What points might be most and/or least helpful to others in the class or in other classes?

2. If you had this chapter to read over again, what would you change, and why? How would you continue or add to it, if you were the author?

3. Who are some people—roommates, friends, family, or coworkers—with whom you might share this chapter? Why? What would you discuss with them after having shared it? What might be their responses and yours in return?

4. What are one or more ways in which you think you might be able to write the type of paper described in this chapter? In what ways might you have difficulty doing so? How could you resolve some of those difficulties?

1. Writing a Paper from This Chapter: Write a rough-draft paper using the instructions in one of the chapters in this section, and use the major subtitles suggested in the directions (200-500+ w. or as assigned).


Find more activities for groups and classes in the Home Page section's

General Activities for Groups.


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 43. What Is "Writing to Lit"?

 44. How To Read Literature

 45. Analysis of Elements

 46. Critical Analysis

 47. Interpretive Thesis

 48. Literary Review


Prewriting Activities

Critical  Alternatives


For writing about content in articles, essays, & books, see

E. Responding to Reading



 Related Links in

4. Literature, Reading, & Writing


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
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Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.