An amalgam of images from horror films with the words Writing 1122: Horror at the bottom.

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.

Week 1: Jan. 3 - 9

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

Then, do some stuff:
1) Sign up for our Discord server, using the invite link I added to Canvas and sent by e-mail. Here's a quick getting started guide for Discord, if you haven't used it. Discord will be our "classroom" when we're working online, for both synchronous and asynchronous activities.

2) At the time we'd normally be meeting in person this week, 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. When we can hold in-person sessions, you'll come at the time your section is scheduled. However, all three sections will work together in our 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. 10 - 16

First, watch:
Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man (2020)
Film Riot, "5 Shot Types Every Filmmaker Should Know"

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.

4) During our regular class meeting times, I'll be available to chat synchronously with anyone who has thoughts about the films or questions about this week's assignment. Find me in the #general-chat channel on Discord.

Week 3: Jan. 17 - 23

First, read:
Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: "Chapter 3"
Noel Carroll, "The Nature of Horror"
There are no additional films to watch this week, but we'll be continuing to discuss Invisible Man and Get Out, if you haven't had a chance to watch both yet.

Then, do some stuff:
We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week.
WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

We'll chat about a few things, Invisible Man and Get Out, horror film more broadly, writing and genre.

A few things to remind you of from our syllabus. This is from the "What We'll Do and How We'll Do it" section: "Not all of us are encountering this moment in the same ways, so each of us will have to make decisions about how we can engage." And then: "Given the current circumstances, our face-to-face sessions are optional. I trust you to make decisions about what feels safe for you, and we all want you to do what you can to keep others safe."

If you aren't able to make it to class,
Read my post about "Why Horror?" and write a brief response, wherever you're doing your work for this course. Share a link to your response and a few thoughts in the #why-horror channel on discord. Respond to your peers there.

The questions from my post: 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 does talking about the horror genre have to do with writing?

Week 4: Jan. 24 - 30

First, watch:
John Carpenter, Halloween (1978) (Rent on YouTube)
Join an optional live chat of this week's film in the #halloween channel on Discord at 7pm MDT on Monday, January 24. We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. Or, if you can't make it, no worries, just watch on your own. YouTube currently has Halloween for $2.99. But it's also available for rent on Apple TV and Amazon.

Then, do some stuff:
1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week. We'll chat about Halloween, the slasher genre, and we'll talk a bit about Understanding Comics: "Chapter 3" (which you read for last week):

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410) (cancelled)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379) (cancelled)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. Write a 6-word horror story. Here's the gist. Share your story in the #six-word-stories channel on Discord. (If you're in the Thursday group, we'll do this together in class.)

3. Either, Join an optional live chat of this week's film in the #alien channel on Discord at 7pm MDT on Sunday, January 30. We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. If you can't make it to one of these screenings, you can certainly watch on your own. But, also, I'll keep varying the day/time so that everyone can hopefully make it to at least one.

Or, start by reading an essay I wrote about 15 years ago: "Pity Poor Flesh: Terrible Bodies in the Films of Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Romero." It's got some of my thoughts on Halloween, but also about the horror genre more broadly. Then, write a short post about Halloween, reflecting on the film or a specific moment in the film (wherever you're doing your work for the course). Share your post in the #halloween channel on Discord.

Looking forward: we'll be working on creative non-fiction pieces over the next couple weeks. Skip to next week for more details on the creative non-fiction essay.

Week 5: Jan. 31 - Feb. 6

First, watch:
Ridley Scott, Alien (1979) (Free with Amazon Prime, Rent on YouTube)

Then, do some stuff:
1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week. We'll chat about Alien, and look at drafts of your creative non-fiction essay (see below for more details:

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. Bring a rough draft of your creative non-fiction essay to class this week. 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. We can talk more at any point about what shape your work can take in class, openly on discord, or via DM.

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

3. If you aren't able to make it to class in person this week, or if you are and you want additional feedback, share your draft in the #creative-nonfiction channel on Discord. And respond to the drafts of your peers. Tell them what moves you. Tell them how you reacted. Ask them questions. Answer their questions.

Week 6: Feb. 7 - 13

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:
1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week. We'll keep looking at drafts of your creative non-fiction essay (see the description last week for more details) and we'll play some video games together!

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. Bring a less rough draft of your creative non-fiction essay to class this week.

3. If you aren't able to make it to class in person this week, or if you are and you want additional feedback, share your draft in the #creative-nonfiction channel on Discord (if you haven't already). And respond to the drafts of your peers. Tell them what moves you. Tell them how you reacted. Ask them questions. Answer their questions.

4. The finished creative non-fiction essay is due by Sunday. Share it in the #our-work channel on Discord. That's always where you'll share finished drafts of the assignments for the course.

Week 7: Feb. 14 - 20

We’ll take a bit of a breather, so you can take time to think about and work on your midterm self-reflection. But there’s some recommended reading that might help as you think about how to evaluate your work for the course.

There will be a single in person session this week on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 2pm in Sturm Hall 410. Anyone from any of the sections of the class can come. We'll chat about Alfie Kohn's “The Case Against Grades” and check in about the course to date. I recognize that not everyone will be able to make it to this session, so feel free to reach out to me on Discord. We can chat there or set up a one-on-one meeting, if neccessary.

First, if you haven't already, respond to the work of several of your peers in the #our-work channel.

Then, write your self-reflection:
Click this link to write a self-reflection by the end of the day on Friday, February 18. 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”.

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. 21 - 27

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:
1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week, provided the snow doesn't get in the way. (I'll keep you posted on Discord.) We'll talk about the illustrated argumentative essay (see the description last week for more details) and we'll talk about some bits from the readings above.

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. If you aren't able to make it to class in person this week, choose one of the three 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.

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"

3. Write down some ideas for your illustrated argumentative essay, which you'll complete by the end of week 10. Bring those to class or share them in the #illustrated-essay channel in Discord.

Week 9: Feb. 28 - Mar. 6

First, 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 Shining (1980), 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)

Then, do some stuff:
1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week to play Ten Candles from Cavalry Games. It's an apocalyptic collaborative storytelling game that you play by candlelight. (We'll use fake candles.)

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. If you aren't able to make it to class in person this week, you can either write a short response to one of the films above or to the game Ten Candles. (You can buy a pdf version of the game here.) Talk specifically about how the technical elements of the film (the shots, lighting, editing, etc.) or the mechanics of the game embody (or challenge) the horror genre. Share your thoughts in the #our-work channel.

3. Keep working on your illustrated argumentative essay.

Week 10: Mar. 7 - 13

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

1. We'll be meeting at our regularly scheduled times this week to review and discuss drafts of your illustrated argumentative essay. (By this point, you should be as close to finished as possible, but drafts might look like text, images, video, a sketch, or some other work-in-progress.)

WRIT 1122 Sec. 10 on Tuesday at Noon (Sturm Hall 410)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 13 on Tuesday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 379)
WRIT 1122 Sec. 66 on Thursday at 2pm (Sturm Hall 410)

2. If you aren't able to make it to class in person this week, by the time your section would normally meet, share your draft or work-in-progress in the #illustrated-essay channel on Discord with specific questions that will help you get useful feedback. Visit the #illustrated-essay channel and offer feedback to several of your peers.

Week 11: Mar. 14 - 18

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. Before Friday, complete your final self-reflection by clicking here.