8 Questions To Ask Any Story

So I was looking for inspiration for a lesson on “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, and I stumbled on this site: http://livinginbetweenthelines.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/an-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge-short-story-questions/

The questions she poses are so universal—they truly could be applied to any story. (And her answers are so thoughtful. I hope to get such great responses from my students!) I adapted a few of them to add some options.

I think these could be used in several capacities:

  • group discussions of lit circle novels
  • independent reading journal entries
  • end of novel assessment – choose 2 or 3 to respond to

1. What demands does the story make on its readers? What does the story assume or understand about its readers? How might one describe the ideal audience for the story?

2. What motivates the main characters? What do they fear, know, desire, believe?

3. Would the story have the same effect if the location of the setting were changed?

4. If the story is being told in the third person, is the narrator omniscient (all knowing and seeing) or limited to the thoughts of one character?

4a. If the story is told in the first person, is the narrator reliable, believable? What similarities are there between the narrator and the author?

5.  How does the author use metaphors (or imagery or another literary device)? Are they used as an elaborate device that supplies more detail? Are they used to extend meaning through the entire story?

6. Does the author use long complex sentences, short simple sentences, sentence fragments? How do these stylistic choices contribute to the overall meaning of the story?

7. Does this story reflect a particular society/time period/group of people?

8. Keeping all of the above in mind, what is the intention of this story—what is its main idea? What is it trying to tell us?

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