[MUSIC] I'm thrilled by the fact that each of you probably came up with an entirely different response to the assignment and I hope it went well for you. No matter how many of us write, we will never come up exactly the same thing. Each of the three settings I offered to you had different challenges. I want to share with you one student example. It's by a writing student named Julia Pike. Julia chose to set her fiction in a blackout. She set her story on the morning after Hurricane Sandy, which was a real event that took place in 2012, one of the most destructive hurricanes on record in North America. Notice how Julia tells it from a child's point of view, and it happens to be the child's birthday. Here's an excerpt. From A Blackout, by Julia Pike. When I wake up it is my birthday and I'm too hot in my long-sleeved pajama shirt. Mom and dad aren't there but I hear their voices downstairs, so I walk down. There aren't waffles on the island in the kitchen like there normally are, and the lights still aren't on, and my parents are standing at the front window. They don't hear me walking down the stairs, so I go over to them and look the window before they stop me. I feel for a second like I stood up too quickly, because everything in front of my eyes is shifty and not right. The cars aren't where they're suppose to be and one is upside down and the tree in front of our garage is lying on the ground and everything is shiny like it just took a bath. Dad notices me for the first time, and he picks me up and kisses my cheek and leaves it wet, and his eyes are red and he tells me happy birthday. I eat cereal at the island and mom and dad sing to me and give me presents But their eyes are focused outside all the time and they keep checking their phones and the whole morning feels like waiting for something. Our house inside is like it always is, plastic curtains and plastic flowers and smelling like cinnamon candles, but it's dark in here and dark outside. Finally mom and dad's phones buzz and they say we are going outside to look around because it's safe now. Dad puts my yellow raincoat on me and he puts me on his shoulders because there are maybe still wires and we go outside. It smells like the ocean more than normal And a little like burning and like something else too, which is like leaves in fall but sweeter than that, in a way that makes my stomach hurt. The bats are gone from the doorway and so are both lion hats and one lion. People are coming out of their houses all at once now, touching the paint on the front of their houses that is puffy and has a dark line on it that is higher than my head. The people are standing and blinking in the places where lawn furniture used to be. All the houses on our street are normal, mostly, but then we turn the corner and there is a deck that is just sticks, and steps leading down to basements where black water is sitting. A lady with a pink sweatshirt on sits on a cracked tree with her hands on her cheeks, looking out with nothing in her face. We walk until we are at the water, until we are at the place where houses are all crumpled and the boardwalk looks like someone picked it up with big hands and twisted it around and around. The water looks like bath now. We stand there until dad sighs extra loud and we know it's time to go, and then we walk back home. My legs are hurting where they touch dad's shoulders so he lets me walk a little. People have started to move things to the streets all ready. They are moving water from basements with buckets and putting cabinets full of fat wet paper in front their houses. I see a skull on the ground and I feel a scream coming up from stomach like cold. Dad feels it moving up from my hand and leans down to me and says in a quick voice, Halloween decorations, Caroline, just Halloween decorations, and the scream stays in my neck. But the cold is there, and I ask him to pick me up and he carries me on his bony hip, even though it is uncomfortable for me. I hum happy birthday as we walk up our street. We pass books with with flopping pages moving in the wind. We see more Halloween decorations that have fallen all around and they look scary for real now. We walk a wet wedding dress that looks like a ghost, hung up in someone's gutter on a white hanger. When we get back to our house, mom takes a birthday candle from the drawer and sticks it in some of the ice cream that is melting from the freezer that isn't on, and she lights it with a little blue lighter and says sorry and sings happy birthday. And I blow out the candles and dad says happy birthday, and I'm sorry. And then we all go sit on someone else's porch furniture that's blown onto our lawn, and watch the sun set red over everything moving and drying out. I don't even even know if Julia witnessed Hurricane Sandy first hand, or not. But as a fiction, this persuaded me. So do you feel how Julia has imaginatively researched this scene? When the little girl and her parents leave the house we get a panorama of the destruction. There's the twisted boardwalk and a deck that is just sticks. But the line that I find most persuasive is this one. A lady with a pink sweatshirt on sits on a cracked tree with her hands on her cheeks, looking out with nothing in her face. This lady with a sweatshirt isn't anything Julia could have researched. She was there when Julia turned a corner in her mind. She's a woman who's so defeated and so shocked that she has quote nothing in her face. This expression is contrasted with the pink sweatshirt which is a typical item of day wear, a vestige of normal life. Also notice how Julia was aware of a real world fact that Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the US just before Halloween. So, Julia uses this in her description of the setting, and how eerie it must have been to see the drowned Halloween decorations, like the skull, scary for real now, as the child narrator says. Well, what did you learn from describing your setting at length? Did you see how you were able to make those intuitive connections between the setting and in the inherent drama of the situation? If you did, good work.