Difficulty of Project
Medium (The results of this experiment could be published in a journal of Narratology or Narrative Theory.)
Easily available from your library.
Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project
A few days.
- To understand readers’ expectations in regard to literature.
- To better comprehend Peter Brooks’ theories about plot.
- A story
- A computer (to alter the story)
- A good sense of imagination
In Peter Brooks’ book, “Reading for the Plot”, Brooks asserts that a story must “tend towards its own end… . Yet this must be the… correct end” (Brooks 103).According to Brooks, authors often resort to a technique called the “short circuit”, which enhances the tension in a story (Brooks 104).This short circuit is when the story is in danger of coming to an anti-climactic ending—perhaps a character nearly dies before the plot is resolved.Brooks claims that readers desire this short circuit in literature, and they search for it when they read.
- Do readers actually expect a short circuit in a story?
- Does the short circuit actually heighten the tension of a story?
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
- What is a short circuit?
- What are readers’ expectations for a story?
- How do readers react to an anti-climactic ending?
- How can you measure the tension of a story?
- Find a story that you believe no one has read.
- Edit the story so that it nearly ends anti-climatically.
- Gather a group of participants together. a. Give half the participants the unaltered story. b. Give the other half the altered story. c. Keep track of which participant has which story!
- As the participants read the story, have them rate their desire to read on.Does it increase with the doctored story?
Brooks, Peter.Reading for the Plot.Harvard University Press.Cambridge, MA: 1992.
Genette, Gerard.Narrative Discourse.Cornell University Press.New York: 1983.