Portfolio of Work

Henry Bender

Spring 2015
UHON 201-001
Michael Thomas
(arranged roughly in chronological order)
  1. Place Description Exercise:
    The assignment for this exercise was to describe a place we knew from the perspective of an original character. For the place, I chose my neighbor Barbara's house, because to this day it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. You would be incredibly hard pressed to find a cozier house in the world, or at least in the united states. For such a peaceful environment I wrote a peaceful, or rather docile, character named Alastair. In "his" description of the place I tried to convey the air of simplicity shared by both character and setting.
  2. Character Development Exercise:
    During our time in the Ortega Reading room, I spied on many interesting people. I remember there being a guy commuting to class on a unicycle, and pair of middle aged women in incredibly colorful knit scarves, and a woman wearing an outfit entirely composed of the color pink. These all fascinated me, but I ended up settling on a pair of characters who, while they didn't stand out much, begged more questions than any of the other individuals. The pair was composed of a stoner-esque skater dude and a well toned, leather-jacket-wearing guy that I guessed probably came from a ranching family. Upon seeing them walking and talking together I asked myself "How are they friends? They're so different." So, I wrote about the pair, attempting to illustrate some common ground between the two that would allow for friendship to bloom.
  3. Sports Related Article:
    I have very little if any interest in sports. Honestly, the only sporting events that truly grab my attention are the Olympics, the Winter X Games, and the Fifa World Cup. I have completely given up on being interested in American football, which the rest of my family is crazy about. The only way in which I could sympathize with them was in their hatred for the Cowboys. Their apparent reasoning for this hatred was that the owner/manager of the cowboys was a pompous bastard, which I can sympathize with. My rationale was far less, well, rational. I simply don't like Texas, or anything that comes from it. I felt the irrationality of that hatred and my obsession with the team and their losses would make a far more interesting experience to share than a simple rehashing of reasons to watch the Olympics or X Games.
  4. Odysseus scene re-write:
    For this assignment I chose to re-write the reconciliation between Calypso and Odysseus, in which Calypso offers him the means to leave her island. I can't quite remember why I chose this scene. It might have been the beauty of the poetry in that particular scene, but I think more than that I just liked the scene because it was tender, and light-hearted, and it made me see both Calypso and Odysseus in more positive lights than those I'd previously cast on them. It's just a nice scene is all.
  5. Chapel Prompt:
    Unfortunately, I never got around to working on this story, but I did manage to come up with a halfway decent idea about a young man whose family is descended from a priest known for his charity towards animals. The family respects this ancestor through a tradition of working in the church, a tradition the young man is expected to follow. However, after some soul searching, and a dream-like conversation with his holy ancestor, the man decides to respect his lineage in a different way by working as a zookeeper and conservation biologist.
  6. Photo and Ballad Prompt:
    I had a lot of fun coming up with the ideas for both of these prompts, and I'd like to fully realize both of them some day. For the ballad, I chose the song about the man murdering his fiance violently. The thing that struck me the most was the man's total detachment from his crimes. He was completely apathetic about her death, seeming to view her more as an obstacle of some sort than an actual person. So, I simply wrote a universe in which Rose Connally would've been an obstacle, a direct obstacle to the narrator's true romantic happiness, an obstacle to be disposed of.
    My process for addressing the photo prompt was far less sophisticated. I had a hard time coming up with anything serious to write about any of the photos, so I chose a more absurdist route. I saw the picture with the girl patting her friend on the back, noted the differences in their fashion, and boom: Cinderalla parody. I had fun working on that prompt, primarily because it's one of many recent examples in which writing completely wacky nonsensical things obliterates my writer's block. I'd like to fine tune this skill in future writing.
  7. Lamkin prompt:
    I don't quite remember how the poem of Lamkin led me to imagine the scenario taking place in the Spanish Civil War. I think it was because I was deciding to write from the "Lord's" perspective, asking where he was leaving, why it was so urgent, and how he knew about the threat of Lamkin beforehand. Though it's not stated in what I have so far for the story, the answer is that Lamkin is essentially a guerilla fighter attacking the Fascists. If fully realized, the story I felt would've been a very interesting analysis on bravado/machismo and how that fits in to the terrifying possibility of your loved ones being in danger.
  8. Sunlandia, drafts one through three:
    This is a sort of first stab at an idea I've been toying with for months now about the Aztec gods living among normal humans. This idea began as a fascination with the Aztec incarnation of the god Coyote. In Aztec tradition, he was the god of music and dance, and was constantly accompanied by a human drummer. The drummer was neither his master nor his minion, but merely a friend. The character of Carmen is based loosely on that semi-mythological figure. I had a lot of fun writing this, but the first and polished drafts were rough to get through. Though I loved the idea, I found myself becoming disinterested in the story and some of the characters as I was writing it. As a result parts of the story came out very stale and lacking in motivation. I powered through this when Dr. T advised me to "let myself become interested" in the characters and aspects of the story I had neglected. Once I started consciously investing in these little details, I found that they became far more fascinating and fun to write. I felt like writing this story provided a good lesson in how motivation affects one's writing. I definitely plan on expanding this story in the future.


  9. Craigslist Ad Prompt:
    Personally, I thought this was the most interesting exercise we've done in the class. It's just so incredibly vague in the way the poster barely knows anything about this Bruce Sutherland and yet is so incredibly determined to get into contact with them, to get "help" from them. The parameters of the prompt are clear, and yet there's an infinite number of directions you could take it in. It's a creativity gold-mine. Personally, for the exercise I imagined Bruce being some sort of specialist in supernatural problems, and that the person contacting him was suffering from such a problem. Unfortunately, I didn't develop this fully and use it for my final project, but I did use the idea in a writing assignment for a different class in which Bruce was a retired monster hunter, and the person trying to get into contact with him is a ten year old kid that's noticed supernatural activity in the woods behind his house. Such kooky and eccentric ideas are what came out of this prompt.
  10. Yin and Yang Final draft/Hospital Exercise:
    This story is simultaneously my Hospital field trip exercise and my final project. I got the idea when a few other people in our group mentioned finding the nursery, not moments after I had been musing with the idea of terminally ill patients. The two ideas kind of merged together, and I began thinking about the dichotomy of life and death in a hospital: how so many people are born in a hospital and how a sizable number of those people will die in one as well. Thus, the hospital became more than a setting, but a conduit for reincarnation, for the transition from death to life and life to death. This is the stuff that I toyed around with in this final project.The first draft was relatively easy, but I didn't spend nearly as much time involving myself in the world of the story as with the last large project, so I found that the story kind of ran away from me in a few respects. Mainly, it became incredibly cheesy incredibly fast. I reigned that in a little bit with the polished draft, but it was only after hearing review from my peers (including a bucket-full of mockery directed at the melodramatic phrase "oceans of emotion") that I actually managed to pinpoint the places where heavy sentimentality made the writing weak. I feel a lot more confident about this final draft, and actually quite happy with it.