An amalgam of horror images, overlapping in a way that obscures them, with the words Writing 1122: Horror just below.

WRIT 1122 | Writing: Horror | jesse.stommel@du.edu

Here’s what we’ll spend our time doing this quarter. The schedule will evolve as we proceed. Watch regularly for more details, added activities, and stuff might change or move around as our conversation does. You can use justwatch.com to find where any of the films we'll be watching are streaming or available for rent.

Week 1: Jan. 8 - 14

First, read and watch:
Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man (2020) (Amazon Prime for rent)
Film Riot, "5 Shot Types Every Filmmaker Should Know"

Then, do some stuff:
1) Sign up for our Discord server, which I'll add to Canvas and e-mail to you before our first day. Here's a quick getting started guide for Discord, if you haven't used it. Discord will be an extension of our classroom and where you'll be sharing your work for the course and engaging with the work of your peers.

2) Make a short (less than a minute) video introducing yourself to us. This can be super simple (shot on your phone, no editing, etc.). Share your video in the #who-are-we channel in Discord.

  • Don’t tell us your major, unless you have a story about it
  • Don’t tell us what you did over the holiday break, unless it involves giant snakes, parachuting, a unicorn, or it will be documented in a viral video
  • Don’t tell us where you grew up, unless you’re going to show pictures
  • Do tell us what moves you, what you care most about
  • Do tell us what you hope to get from taking this course, but only if you can do so in a limerick
  • Do tell us where you are
  • Do give us random facts we can come to know you by
  • Do click here and answer the first would you rather question that catches your eye

To share a video in Discord, upload to YouTube (or any other site where videos live) and share with a link. Or click the little + to the left of the message box in Discord, select a video file you created, and add a title or hello in the message.

3) Watch some of the videos of your peers, respond, add reaction emojis, etc. There are three sections of this class, all of which will work together in this Discord server.

4) You'll need a space online to share your work for this course. A couple options: (a) Use your own personal site or blog, if you have one; (b) Sign up for a free account on Medium; (c) Prepare to publish anywhere else (Google Drive, WordPress, Tumblr, etc.), as long as you can post regularly and share your work with the class via hyperlinks. Feel free to leave your full name off of your site (or use a psuedonym).

5) Look ahead to the work for next week and get started.

Week 2: Jan. 15 - 21

First, read and watch:
Jordan Peele, Get Out (2017) (Amazon Prime for rent)
"Excerpt from Get Out: The Complete Annotated Screenplay" (spoiler alert)

Then, do some stuff:
1) Write a short essay (of 500–1500 words) analyzing a single frame from The Invisible Man or Get Out. I recommend pausing on the frame and writing with it on screen. Include a still of the frame in your post. (As an alternative, you could consider a single cut, the juxtaposition of two frames next to one another in the film.)

Consider framing, lighting, camera angle or technique, props, performance, setting, sound, dialogue, symbolism, etc. Start with basic elements of the frame: what's on the right, what's on the left, what's large in the frame, what's small? Is this a closed frame or an open frame (is the image self-contained, or does it point to a world beyond its edges)? What meaning can you draw from the shot or scene? Why is it so important to the film? How do specific elements of the shot/frame support or complicate your answers to these questions?

There is no right way to do this work. The key is to keep looking and keep writing about what you notice. This isn't a formal essay, so you don't need a thesis, but you might end up with one. At this point, you're dumping the LEGO pieces out, sifting through them, and seeing how they fit together, but not necessarily building anything yet.

2) Publish your post wherever you will be doing the work for this course (a blog, Medium, Google Drive, somewhere else). Tag your post with #writinghorror. Share a link to your work in the #our-work channel on discord. Make sure your work is viewable by anyone with the link.

3) Find posts by a few of your peers and add comments. Respond to comments.

Week 3: Jan. 22 - 28

First, Read and Watch:
Zach Cregger, Barbarian (2022) (HBO Max streaming) (Amazon Prime for rent)
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: "Chapter 3"
Haiyang Yang and Kuangjie Zhang, "The Psychology Behind Why We Love (or Hate) Horror"
(Optional): Jesse Stommel, "Why Horror?"

Then, do some stuff:
1. Write a brief response to either the piece by Yang and Zhang or the one by me wherever you're doing your work for this course. Consider the question "why horror?": Why, as a culture, do we watch horror films? Why is the genre so intensely popular? Why do otherwise seemingly normal people make these films in the first place? Why do you watch horror films? Why did you sign up for a class about horror? What about our current historical moment is impacting the kind of horror being released and becoming popular? What does talking about the horror genre have to do with writing? Share a link to your response and highlights in the #our-work channel on discord.

2. Respond to your peers there.

3. We'll be working on creative non-fiction pieces over the next few weeks. Skip to next week for more details on the creative non-fiction essay. Start by trying to write a first sentence.

Week 4: Jan. 29 - Feb. 4

First, watch:
John Carpenter, Halloween (1978) (Amazon Prime for rent)

Then, do some stuff:
1. Write a 6-word horror story. Here's the gist. Share your story in the #six-word-stories channel on Discord.

2. (Optional): "Pity Poor Flesh: Terrible Bodies in the Films of Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Romero." This piece has some of my own thoughts on Halloween, but also about the horror genre more broadly. Feel free to read if you're curious.

3. Work on your creative non-fiction essay. You'll be working on this for the next couple weeks. The finished essay should be around 750 - 1500 words. (I leave the word count range really broad on purpose, because I want you to find your own way into this work. This is a guide only – I certainly don't want you to add words just to meet a word count.)

According to creativenonfiction.org, the creative non-fiction genre is "true stories, well told." There's lots more to read there. One of the things that distinguishes creative non-fiction from other sorts of narrative writing is that you're not only telling a story but also reflecting upon it in some significant way. Your story can be about you, or about someone else. It can be about factual truths, emotional truths, historical truths, personal truths, etc. How you get at those "truths" is up to you. You can use just prose, a mixture of prose and images, a branching choose your own adventure style narrative, or whatever else feels right. At the point that you begin playing with form, word count may become irrelevant.

And, one more thing: since this is a horror class, whatever you do, make it scary.

Week 5: Feb. 5 - 11

First, watch:
Sam Esmail, Leave the World Behind (2023) (Netflix)

1. Share the first page from your creative non-fiction essay in the #our-work channel on Discord. Think carefully about your first sentence and how you're working from the very first words to draw in your reader. Here are some examples of first sentences from literature with a bit about what they're doing and how they're doing it.

2. Respond to the first page / opening sentences of your peers. Leave comments on at least 3 - 4. Look for folks who haven't gotten any responses yet. If you need help from me, reach out with a DM on Discord. In addition to finishing your creative non-fiction essay next week, you'll also be writing midterm self-reflection, which will give you an opportunity to check in with me about where you're at in the course so far.

Week 6: Feb. 12 - 18

Finish your creative non-fiction essay, then take time to think about and work on your midterm self-reflection. There are no new films for this week, but there is some recommended reading that might help as you think about how to evaluate your work for the course.

First, submit your Creative Non-fiction essay to the #our-work channel. and respond to the work of at least several of your peers. Do this as early in the week as possible.

Then, write your self-reflection
Write your midterm self-reflection (click here). Read some or all of this stuff, as you think about your self-reflection: Nancy Chick's “Metacognition”, Alfie Kohn's “The Case Against Grades”, and/or Audrey Watters's “The Web We Need to Give Students”.

Week 7: Feb. 19 - 25

First, read:
Four entries from Writing Commons: "Rhetorical Situation,""Ethos,""Pathos,""Logos"
Joseph Williams, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace: "Understanding Style" and "Correctness"

Then, do some stuff:
Choose one of the readings below and write a brief response, analyzing how the piece uses ethos, pathos, and logos to make its argument. Also, find a single sentence (or two) where the piece breaks and/or invents grammatical rules to rhetorical effect. Share in the #our-work channel

Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"
Henry David Thoreau, "Where I Lived and What I Lived For"
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own: “Shakespeare’s Sister”
Pierre Bayard, "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read"

Then, watch:
These are some horror films that I particularly recommend and a few that were recommended by other folks in the class. Choose one of these and watch at some point this week.

Candyman (2021), The Invitation (2015), The Thing (1982), Donnie Darko (2001), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Halloween (2018), A Quiet Place (2018), The Birds (1963), Monsters (2010), The Beach House(2019), Hereditary (2018), Us (2019), Annihilation (2018), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Scream (1996), King Kong (1933), Psycho (1960), Smile (2022)

Looking forward:
Here are some details about the final project for this course, which you'll be working on for the next several weeks. At this point, just start thinking about what ideas and questions you have.

Illustrated Argumentative Essay. This project will be the culmination of everything you've done in class thus far. The goal of this project is to investigate one of the important subjects of this course. You will start by choosing a specific issues or topic that has arisen for you during the semester. You are welcome to incorporate literary analysis and personal anecdotes into this piece, but you are invited to move beyond that by incorporating research about your subject as well. Both your written and visual elements will clearly support and contribute to an argument, whatever that might be.

The visual component can take any of a number of forms, including but not limited to graphic art, video, photography, interactive narrative, a web page, etc. The other component of the final project will be an argumentative paper. The length of this paper depends, to some degree, on the nature of your visual work. You are encouraged to think outside the box in how you approach this paper, and feel free to weave your written and visual components together

You can develop your final project from one of the other papers or responses you complete during the term, broadening its scope or reinventing it in some way. You may also collaborate on this project.

Week 8: Feb. 26 - Mar. 3

First, play:
Play LIMBO for at least an hour (it’s on multiple platforms for $4 to $10)
Kevin Wong, “The Most Depressing Theories On What Limbo Means” (lots of spoilers, so you may want to play the whole game first)

Then, do some stuff:
Either,
Join a live discussion in the #limbo channel on Discord (more details TBA). We’ll chat about gaming more broadly, but we’ll focus on LIMBO, so make sure you’ve played before the discussion. And feel free to continue playing as we’re chatting :)

Or, if you can't make it to the live discussion, write a short post about Limbo, reflecting on the game or a specific moment from the game (wherever you're doing your work for the course). Share your post in the #limbo channel on Discord. Think about how the technical properties of film, video games, and writing are different and/or similar? How does the form/container of these three media influence the content? If you've missed any of the short writing assignments we've done throughout the term, feel free to do both this activity and also come to the live discussion.

Meanwhile:
Keep thinking about your final project (described in the material for Week 7). We'll start sharing ideas and the beginning of our work next week.

Week 9: Mar. 4 - 10

First, Watch:
Stanley Kubrick, The Shining (1980) (HBO Max Streaming) (Amazon Prime for rent)

Then, Do Some Stuff:
Start by sharing a bit from your illustrated argumentative essay. Remember to look back to week 7 for a full description of the final project. Share one of these things in the #illustrated-essay-workshop channel on Discord and offer feedback to several of your peers:

  • The first sentence. When giving your peers feedback, tell them whether the first sentence grabs their attention, what it suggests about the rest of the work that follows, how they might improve it to better set you up for the rest of their essay.
  • A plan or outline with specific questions for how you build upon that sketch, plan, or outline. When giving your peers feedback, tell them what you see working especially well and suggest how they might expand or refine their plan
  • A sketch, draft, or beginning of the visual component of your illustrated argumentative essay. When giving your peers feedback, give them your impressions, tell them what you see, how it makes you feel, what it makes you think about.

Make sure to give your peers feedback by Sunday, so they can begin incorporating that feedback. And reach out to me with a DM on Discord if you have questions.

Week 10: Mar. 11 - 17

Early in the week, share your draft or work-in-progress in the #illustrated-essay-workshop channel on Discord with specific questions that will help you get useful feedback. Visit the #illustrated-essay-workshop channel and offer feedback to several of your peers.

By this point, you should be as close to finished as possible with your illustrated argumentative essay, but drafts might look like text, images, video, a sketch, or some other work-in-progress.

Finish and share your illustrated argumentative essay by the end of the week in the #our-work channel.

Optional: If you've missed one of the short writing assignments this term, or if you just want to take a break from your other work, watch a recently released horror film in the theater or on streaming. Write about the film wherever you're doing your work for the class and share a link in the #recent-horror channel. You can also use that channel to recommend other films you've seen recently.

Some of my recommendations for horror films released in the last year: M3gan (2022), Evil Dead Rise (2023), Scream VI (2023), and Knock at the Cabin (2023). If you're into that kind of thing, Evil Dead Rise is literally the bloodiest horror film I've ever seen. Plus, it's super entertaining.

Week 11: Mar. 18 - 22

Two things to do by Friday this week:
1. The Writing Program asks all students in WRIT 1122 to complete a brief portfolio. Click here for the full instructions. The gist: Cut and paste into a single file (DOCX, RTF, or PDF) two samples from the work you did for WRIT 1122. (No need to revise further.) These can be major or minor assignments, whatever you think represents you best as a writer. Then, write a short introduction that describes your work and how it uses rhetorical strategies to meet your goals. You can use links in the document at will to multimedia components. The instructions ask you to e-mail me your single file, but I'd prefer you send it to me via a DM in Discord.

2. Click here to complete your final self-reflection.