straight down the line

Week Two: Writing & Noir


For the second week of class we’ll be diving right into creating. This week will be a combination of reading and writing, because as Burtis always says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

You’ll be choosing some examples of noir across a number of genres to read, i.e. novellas, film scripts, radio scripts, and short stories. We want to be upfront about one thing: these texts are not always easy to read (and we’re not talking about comprehension). Works like Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers” and James M. Caine’s “The Postman Always RIngs Twice” are products of the times in which they were written (the 1920s and 30s respectively), and the language and attitudes can be racist, sexist, and xenophobic. You may feel uncomfortable with some of the language and ideas, and we encourage an open dialog about this aspect of noir and our reactions to it. It shouldn’t need to be said (but we will say it): our own work in this genre needs to be situated in OUR time — when we have a better understanding of why these attitudes are inappropriate and outdated.

You’ll also be beginning to customize your blog and make it your own. 

As noted last week, the first thing you should do this week (and every week) is watch the video (above). In it, we lay out the plan for the week.

Below is a detailed list of what’s to be completed this week.

  1. Read Some Noir: Read and respond to the following:
    • The Postman Always Rings Twice (PDF) (REQUIRED)
    • At least two from the four following texts:
      • The Wild PartyPDF
      • Chinatown screenplay (PDF)
      • The Shadow, script for the Death Triangle episode (online)
      • The Killers, Ernest Hemingway (PDF online reader)
      • One of the stories from the fiction section of the Noir issue of Shenandoah Literary You will need to read these texts and dedicate at least one blog post to reflecting on your readings, Consider this post as an extension of the “What is noir?” discussion from last week.  What tropes are beginning to emerge? How would you define the writing styles?  What themes stand out? Etc. Tag the post(s): #noirreadings
  2. Write a Character Dossier: Create a character dossier for a noir figure of your own making. Feel free to use the TVTropes site as a resource. Also, this is a character you will be working on over the course of the semester, so take some time to think about this.
    • Submit your character dossier on the noir106 site. Be sure to fill out the form as thoroughly as possible.
    • In addition, write a post introducing us to your character. You can included everything you submitted on the form on the noir106 site, but you’re welcome (and encouraged) to add other details, as well. Please don’t just make this a bullet point list of characteristics.
      Tag the post: #characterdossier
  3. Writing Assignments: This week, we will begin using ds106’s Assignment Bank. This resources includes hundred of media assignments, divided into different genres. This week, you will be focusing on writing assignment. Each assignment comes with a “star” or point rating that judges its difficulty. You must complete at least 8 points of writing assignments, with at least 3 points dedicated to an assignment around the character you developed. In addition, you MUST complete the write alternative ending assignment — and it must be an alternative ending to one of the texts we read this week.
  4. Learn How to Write Assignment Posts: Read this post by Alan Levine on how to write up your assignment posts for ds106. Use this advice to make your posts strong this week! Don’t forget to tag your assignment posts properly!!
  5. Complete Daily Creates: This week, we will also begin to use The Daily Create site. The Daily Create is an integral component of ds106. Basically, it provides you with a creative prompt every day that you must complete and submit. Each Daily Create  comes with instructions about how to submit your work. (Images are submitted on Flickr; Audio on SoundCloud, etc.). There are also specific instructions about how to tag your work so that it shows up on the Daily Create site with everyone else’s submissions.You must complete at least 3 daily creates this week. Here are the rules:
    • You MUST do the Daily Create on the day it comes out. NO EXCEPTION.
    • You MUST tag and post your Daily Creates correctly so they show up on the Daily Create site.
    • You MUST share your Daily Creates somehow in a post on your blog this week. You can embed them in your Weekly post or you can have a separate post about them that you link to from your Weekly post.
    • You should NOT spend more than 15-20 minutes on a Daily Create (Some will take a little as 5 minutes). The idea is get yourself in the habit of doing creative work regularly, not to create a masterpiece everyday!
  6. Customize Your Blog: This week, we want you to also spend some time customizing and personalizing your blog. Here are some things you should work on:
    • About Page: You need to create an about page on your blog and let folks know who you are. This is one of your virtual homes on the web, time to decorate and nest 🙂 You do not need to share very personal information about yourself, if you’re not comfortable doing so, and, generally, we don’t recommend that you post your email, your phone number, or your street address. You’re welcome to only use your first name or a nickname, if that makes you more comfortable, too.
    • Exploring Themes: Some of you have already changed your blog theme and made the site your own. Awesome. For those who haven’t yet, here’s a tutorial on how to work with Themes in WordPress. You should try out some different themes until you find one you really like.
    • Exploring Plugins: Plugins are extensions to WordPress that change or enhance the way it works. Here is a quick run through on installing plugins. In addition, on the Video page of this site, you can find a section full of WordPress help videos. There is one specifically about installing plugins.
      • To start, everyone needs to install Akismet — a plugin that blocks spam comments (which you will all be getting very soon). If you start having issues with spam and you haven’t installed Akismet,  we will cry crocodile tears. We have a tutorial for installing Akismet available. [NB: You don’t have to pay a cent for Akismet, just move the slider to $0 when signing up.]
      • We also recommend you install Jetpack, which is like 40 plugins in one. Many of them are extremely useful (check out the Publicize component of JetPack which let’s you share on Twitter every time you write a blog post).
      • Finally, we’d like you to install the Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin. This will allow your classmates and others to subscribe to posts after they leave a comment, so they can follow any ensuing conversation. JetPack has a Subscription component, which you can use as an alternative.
    • Moderating Comments: There is nothing more annoying than when you take the time to comment on someone’s blog, and it never shows up because it is stuck in moderation. You will receive an email whenever someone leaves a comment on your blog and it goes into moderation, and you need to approve it. It is your job to moderate all comments, although feel free to delete anything you find untoward or inappropriate. You can moderate comments in the Comments section of your WordPress site. (The WordPress help videos on the Video page of this site includes one on Managing Comments.)
    • Blog Titles: No site shall be called “My blog” of “DS106” by the week’s end. If there is one—we will sacrifice kittens and puppies. A lot of them. You change this in the Settings area of the WordPress Dashboard.For a more in-depth overview of WordPress check out the documentation we have provided at
  7. Build Your Participation: Participation is not only a component of your grade in this class, it’s also an essential element of building our online community. If you’re doing the work but not actively engaging with everyone else in ds106, then you need to step up your game. Here are three important ways you can build up your participation in ds106:
    • Commenting:  Commenting is the life’s blood of this class, and it is a large part of your overall work in this course. Read your fellow students’ blogs widely and comment freely. Commenting builds community. If you want to be sure we see the comments you left, you should consider linking to them in your Weekly Summary post.. You can find all the course posts on our Noir106 page.
    • Twitter:  A lot of discussion has been happening on Twitter for this class already, and Twitter will be a vital space for the work we’re doing all semester. If you’re not there, you’re missing the conversation, and that can’t help but affect your work. (You may also miss important information, advice, or announcements!)  Follow the hashtags #ds106 and/or #noir106. Also, we recommend using Tweetdeck (a Twitter application you can install on your computer) for tracking specific hashtags.
    • Responding on Your Own Blog: This is a more advanced from of participation, and it’s indicative of a student who truly understands the meaning of building community in ds106. If you find yourself leaving a very long comment, you have significant thoughts or reactions to a classmate’s work, or someone else’s work inspires you to create something yourself, write up a post on your own blog and be sure to link back to the post that inspired you. It can be incredibly satisfying to discover that something you said or created didn’t just prompt a comment, but inspired someone to write or create something of their own, on their own blog. (You can also use this technique to write about something someone said with which you disagree, but you must always do this in a polite and constructive way!)






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