Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 15, 2018

3I-RACER – Part 2

I’ve been out of the classroom (the school classroom not the classroom of life) for 15 years. About a year and a half ago, I returned to wonderful world of Toastmasters–and was reminded on numerous occasions of the power of “story.” Sooooo, I’m dusting off some of my time-tested exercises from my days teaching Upper Elementary and Middle School Language Arts that assist in the art of weaving words into a credible tale. 

Here are the notes I used to share with my classes. ***These are the “finished product” notes. I would often provide a hand-out that was filled with blank spaces. As I explained the information, I would get the students to fill in the blanks with the pertinent terms or wording. e.g. the Initial Incident section might look like this:

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus __________________ – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus __________________ – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus ___________________ – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.

 

The Plot Structure of a Short Story – 3I-RACER

The plot of a short story is the order or sequence in which the events occur. Most short stories follow the order that is described in the five steps of 3I–RACER.

INTRODUCTION – in the first part of the story, several things happen:

Introduction of main characters – the reader is usually told the names of the main characters, what they look like and a little bit about their personalities.

Setting – the setting is described. It is made up of three parts:

  1. Time – the reader is told or can assume that the story takes place in either the past, the present, or the future.
  2. Place – where the story takes place is also made clear. Sometimes the reader is simply told the name of the country, sometimes the city, or perhaps, just that everything happens in a specific location e.g. a person’s house or in an alley, etc.
  3. Mood or Atmosphere – as part of the setting, the author tries to put the reader in a certain mood. He attempts to involve the reader in a certain emotion or feeling. He may create a “scary” mood in a ghost story, or describe the unhappiness of being alone in the story about an orphan.

INITIAL INCIDENT– this is the “first event” in the story that tells the reader what the major problem or conflict or struggle is in the story. The reader often unconsciously will put the problem into the form of a question –e.g. Will the good guys beat the bad guys? Will the person survive being lost in the wilderness? Will the lady make the right decision?

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus Man – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus Nature – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus Himself – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.

RISING ACTION– this is usually the largest part of the story.  In this portion, a series of events happen which keep the reader wondering which side will win the struggle that began in the “Initial Incident.”

In a good story, the reader is kept in suspense or doubt as to what will happen in the end. This is done by first making it look like one side will be victorious, then the other, and so on, back and forth.

CLIMAX – at this point in the story, the reader finds out who wins the struggle. The outcome of the conflict is determined. The answer to the question posed in the “Initial Incident” is answered.

examples:    the challenger defeats the boxing champion

sharks eat the survivors of the shipwreck

the person decides not to cheat

EPILOGUE OR RESOLUTION (also known as “Falling Action” or “Denouement.”) – any questions that weren’t answered by the climax are now resolved and made clear. Loose ends are tied up. This is often a very short part of the story.

examples:    the challenger went on to defend his title in a re-match with the ex-champion

the death of the survivors resulted in stricter regulations about equipment put into lifeboats

the honest person passed the exam, but his friend, who cheated, got caught and was expelled.

3I – RACER is an acronym that can be used to remember the five parts to the plot structure of a short story.

I – Introduction

II – Initial Incident

RA – Rising Action

C – Climax

ER – Epilogue or Resolution

 


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