Main Character = Story

Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20 minutes

Explain to the class that most stories have more than one character (person or issue). Depending on which character you focus on, the story will change drastically. Ask students to imagine the stories/arguments that follow from the sentences on the handout.

Point out to students, if you've already talked about topic and stress, that the main character is the one who appears in the topic position of the sentence.
Scroll down for the handout and answer key.

Change the Main Character, Change the Story
The following examples offer three different possible main characters to tell a story. Identify the main character in each sentence. Imagine the rest of the story/argument that follows from the sentence. How does the story/argument change as the main character changes?
a. Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood walked through the woods.
b. Once upon a time, the Wolf lurked behind a tree in the woods.
c. Once upon a time, Grandmother was home in bed, wondering where lunch was.
a. You are unclear and disorganized.
b. This paper is unclear and disorganized.
c. When I read this paper, I have trouble understanding how the reasons connect to the claim, and how the evidence connects to the reasons.
a. Charlottesville is losing its tax base to Albemarle County.
b. Albemarle County is increasing its tax base at Charlottesville's expense.
c. The tax base is moving to Albemarle County at Charlottesville's expense.
a. Fred MacMurray uses a plan designed by Barbara Stanwyck to commit insurance fraud in the film noir classic Double Indemnity.
b. Barbara Stanwyck designs the plan Fred MacMurray uses to commit insurance fraud in the film noir classic Double Indemnity.
Answer Key

1. a is a story focused on LRR; b is focused on the Wolf; c is focused on the Grandmother. a is the story we traditionally hear; b is a story about the Wolf—his attraction to LRR, his desire to eat her grandmother, then her, his ultimate demise; c is a story about the Grandmother's sickliness, fear, and—depending on the version students know&amdash;her demise or rescue.
2. a makes it sound like the writer is fundamentally flawed and at fault for writing the disorganized paper; b is neutral, putting only the paper at fault; in c, the reader/commentor takes the blame.
3. a makes it sound like Charlottesville is doing something wrong; b makes it sound like the county is after Charlottesville's tax base; in c no one is clearly to blame.
4. a makes Fred the villain; b makes Barbara the villain.