Making Connections

Task one: Warm-up

A short creative exercise to warm up and get your brain working.

You’re going to write a Bio-Poem for Lionel Essrog. This is a poem that has a formulaic structure to explore a character. The formula goes like this:


Line 1: First name

Line 2: Four traits that describe his character

Line 3: Friend of (or coworker of, enemy of, etc)

Line 4: Lover of (list three things or people)

Line 5: Who feels (three items)

Line 6: Who needs (three items)

Line 7: Who fears (three items)

Line 8: Who gives (three items)

Line 9: Who would like to (three items)

Line 10: Resident of __________ (you could say Brooklyn, or you could say something else? Doesn’t have to be a physical place)

Line 11: Last name


Example, on Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor:


Cynical, bold, all knowing, and fearless.

Friend of no one, peer of few.

Lover of self, wisdom, and unconquerable knowledge.

Who feels neither pity nor compassion nor the love of God.

Who needs no man, save for himself.

Who fears the kiss that warms his heart

And the coming tide which will not retreat.

Who radiates cold shafts of broken glass

And who fits all making with collar and chain.

Who would like to see the deceivers burned

And Crhist to be humbled before him.

Resident of ages past,

“The Grand Inquisitor.”


This exercise is from:

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking,and Active Learning in the Classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print. Pages 139-39.


Task two: Close reading of a scene

Whatever aspect you choose to write about, you’ll need evidence from the novel. One way to include evidence from a novel is to do a close reading of a scene. A close reading means to look carefully at a specific scene, talk about what’s going on beneath the surface, and discuss how it fits into greater patterns in the novel. While discussing the scene, it’s important to keep in mind the context, where we are in the novel, and where the protagonist is on his journey.

For task two, choose a scene from the novel that can be used in your rough draft as an example of the aspect you’ve chosen to discuss.

Write the page ranges. Write where we are in the novel. What’s happening? Where are we at with the story? Where is Lionel at? Write this in one or two sentences. 

Then freewrite for the allotted time on any ideas that come to mind about the scene. Things you can think about:

  • How does the aspect you’ve chosen to write about stand out in this scene? If you haven’t chosen an aspect yet, you can find them listed on the instructions.
  • How does this aspect help give us information about what’s going on beneath the surface?
  • What new information does Lionel learn?
  • What is the relationship between the characters? How do they feel about each other?
  • What does each character want in this situation? What is standing in their way?
  • What are the characters feeling in this situation? Is there a contrast between what they’re feeling and what they’re showing to the other characters?
  • Who has the power in this situation? Is there a power struggle?
  • Is there any interesting or noteworthy imagery? What information does the imagery convey that is not literally stated?
  • Are there any original uses of language? Metaphor, or figurative language? What do Lionel’s thoughts tell us?
  • Is there any interesting dialogue?
  • Is the setting important?
  • What is the tone or mood?
  • How does this scene fit into greater themes or patterns in the novel?

You don’t necessarily have to answer all or any of these questions. They’re mean to spark ideas.

Reread the scene, and then just blast one some ideas.


Task three: Making connections

To analyse means to discuss the relationship between different parts of a thing. In this case, you’re discussing how the various parts of the novel all fit together. One effective way to do that is either to compare two excerpts from the novel (discuss their similarities) or contrast them (discuss their differences). Comparing and contrasting is essential in trying to make sense of a novel.

Compare or contrast the scene you wrote about in task two to another scene in the novel.

Write, “The above scene reminds me of…” if you’re comparing.

Write, “The above scene contrasts with…” if you’re contrasting.

Then do a close reading of the new scene that you’ve chosen. Freewrite for the allotted time. All of the questions in task four still apply. You can also discuss the similarities or differences to the scene in task four.


Task four: Make further connections

Look through the novel for more scenes that you might compare and contrast in your rough draft. Group them together in bunches that either express similarity or difference. Make a few notes on each. These bunches of scenes could serve as a kind of outline for your rough draft.

Example (my examples are made up. Yours should actually be from the novel):

  • P. 242-251 Lionel at the car wash
  • P. 12-15: Lionel at the barber
  • P. 369-371: Matricarde and Rockaforte meet Loomis
  • All three of these show how much Lionel loves licorice. He loves licorice too much? Or not enough? Black or red licorice? How does licorice fit in with Frank’s murder.


  • P. 60-70: French class
  • P. 236-240: Lionel bakes a cake
  • These 2 scenes conflict with each other. In one, Lionel talks about his mother driving him to Karate class. In the second, he says he walks everywhere. Lying? False memory? Drugs?

Task five: Write your rough draft

If you have time remaining after completing the above tasks, continue writing your rough draft.



At the end of the lab, post to “Making Connections” category. Include your name, title, feature image, as usual.


  • For next time, your rough drafts are due. They are to be submitted on the blog, as per the instructions.
  • Please also print out a double spaced copy and bring it to class. You won’t be handing this in, but we’ll be working with them in class. They’ll be a kind of peer review / idea generating session.

One thought on “Making Connections

  1. Task 1:
    Nice, Brave, Tourette’s, Cool
    Co-worker of Tony
    Lover of Frank Minna
    Who feels Frustrated, Vengeful, and Sadness
    Who needs Acceptance, to Avenge Frank’s Death, to figure out everything
    Who fears Failure, the Mob, letting himself down
    Who gives hope, light to a dark day, his affection
    Who would like to break free, crack the case, find a lover
    Resident of Brooklyn
    Task 2:
    Lionel scene with the garbage cop, page 123-4, is unique, it is one of the only scenes where Lionel steps up and is more confident. He isn’t at the bottom of the table anymore when he talks to the garbage cop. It is not like Lionel is taking shit from anyone in this scene, or being laughed at, in this scene Lionel is being the shit giver. It shows that Lionel should be more confident in an everyday basis. Also in this scene we say that when Lionel gets Frustrated, his tics tend to kick in more.
    Task 3:
    The scene above contrasts with one of the first scenes in the novel, the scene where they are waiting for Frank Minna to get out of the building, page 2-12. In this scene, Lionel is sort of being made out to be a joke, Gilbert and Minna were bothing laughing at the expense of Lionel.


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