“Backwards Story a Telling” Exercise

Illustration from Fables for the Frivolous by Guy Wetmore Carryl, with illustrations by Peter Newell (1898)
Illustration from Fables for the Frivolous by Guy Wetmore Carryl, with illustrations by Peter Newell (1898)

Class: Introduction to Creative Writing (The College of William & Mary)
Genre: Fiction
Purpose: To open up discussion about plot structure and significant details
Readings: Chapters 9 (“Fiction”) and 6 (“Story”) in Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing

  1. Watch a viral video without taking notes. (“Texting Guy Almost Runs Into Bear”: http://youtu.be/WYsAkjfXxzU)
  2. Write a summary of what happens in the video. (2 min.)
  3. Now write a scene from the point of view of the bear or the man. Try to tap into their thoughts and moment-by-moment perceptions. Include as many details as you can in 5 minutes. Here’s the hitch: you must tell the story in reverse chronological order! (Tell the story backwards!)
  4. Look at the inverted check mark diagram of pg. 173 in Burroway. Discuss how the check mark works for a chronological story compared to the story told in reverse. Where does the conflict fall in your scene? The crisis (climax)? Is there resolution? Were there any details you thought of telling the story backwards that you might not have thought of telling the story chronologically?