NGCW-Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Part III

All exercises are taken from Alice LaPlante’s  The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing (NGCW).

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Brownies by ZZ Packer

       1. How is dialogue used in this story? How important are the scenes (as opposed to the narration)?

The scenes provide the background information while the dialogue shows action in real time, as seen from the perspective of the child. The narration is marvelous but the scenes are extremely effective in illustrating exactly what is happening to the main character.

       2. How does the dialogue characterize the narrator-both in what she says herself and how she responds to what other people say?

The story is about a Brownie troop of fourth-grade African American girls at summer camp. Laurel, the narrator, believes that one of the white girls racially insulted them. At the end of the story, she tells a similar story involving a white Mennonite family and comes to a realization that not everything is so cut and dry, “suddenly knew that there was something mean in the world that I could not stop.” She tells the story in dialogue but realizes the hypocrisy of her words in narration. 

3.What do you think of the colloquialism of the dialogue? Does it work for you? Does it seem realistic?

The colloquialism are realistic. It is easy to understand and childlike, given that the characters speaking are children.


1. What is the mix of scene vs. narration in this piece? How well does this balance work?

The story, narrated by the author in first person, provides the reader with his thoughts as well as the ‘objective’ scenes between him and his father. The narration gives the reader his reactions to his father’s disapproval and appears to be fairly well balanced.

2. The piece spans a great deal of time. How does the author start and stop the clock of the essay?

The first part of the story takes place around the same time that the author won the Hemingway award. Then there is a space and the new paragraph begins, “In the year that followed…” This section lasts about a page and is followed by another space and the next paragraph “After months of elusiveness…” Even though spacing and indications of time passing are the only things that author uses to stop and start the clock, these techniques are quite effective.

3. Can you point to some sections of narration that are convincing because of their specificity?

“Daily I relieved the particulars: the shirt taut across my chest, the heat of his breath on the back of my neck, the flood of light as the door swung wide…” Almost all of the narration is full of specific details that enrich the story as a whole.
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