In the centuries prior to central heating, ecologically efficient insulation, and a plethora of nifty cleaning supplies and disinfectants, winter was the time when people who lived in cold climates hunkered down by vigorously stoking fires, reading by oil lanterns or candelight, and allowing dirt, dust and ashes to collect because, frankly, no one had the energy for serious cleaning.
Come Spring - and the return of brighter, longer days - collective spirits were renewed to start opening windows, scrubbing floors, beating rugs, doing mending and even throwing things out. The tradition of annually refreshing one’s nest also carries religious connotations dating back to early Persians and Jews – two cultures that respectively believed a clean home was synonymous with a pure spirit. This month’s lesson plans are all about Spring cleaning and the discoveries that can be made from this process.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
It’s rough enough to be constantly bossed around by a wicked stepmother and her pair of snarky daughters – there’s all that top-to-bottom housecleaning which needs to be done as well. While she impatiently waits for her Prince Charming to realize she’s the one that dainty glass slipper will fit, Cinderella realizes she’ll be much too exhausted to enjoy palace life if she doesn’t start getting some help. Fortunately, she’s a bit of an entrepreneur and decides that subcontracting is the smart way to go.
Your assignment: Write a three-page scene in which Cinderella interviews her first job applicant, an earnest young woman named Miss White who has references from the seven occupants of the house where she is currently working.
HOARDERS AND BOARDERS
A recent survey revealed that compulsive hoarders comprise almost two percent of the U.S. population. These are people who refuse to discard absolutely anything regardless of its size, value or perceived purpose.
Your assignment: The protagonist of the movie you want to write has been assigned the daunting task of cleaning out his/her late relative’s old storage unit which is presumably filled with useless junk. Imagine the protagonist’s surprise upon opening the shed and discovering that this horribly messy shed has been occupied all this time by…? Fill in the blank and write a three-page scene in which the unexpected boarder explains how s/he came to be living there and, further, has no intention of moving out.
WHAT’S MINE IS MINE
(UNLESS IT WAS PREVIOUSLY YOURS)
It has always been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In the case of this writing assignment, sometimes it can even be property that was stolen during a burglary.
Your assignment: The set-up for the one-page film synopsis you’re going to write is a neighborhood garage sale. The homeowners – caught up in the zeal of Spring housecleaning – have laid out a diverse spread of merchandise. Everything is going well until one of the shoppers happens to notice that a number of items for sale are his/her own property that had gone missing the previous year. Are the homeowners secretly cat burglars? Did they receive these items from someone they trusted? Or is the shopper simply wanting to make an ugly scene in order to get a lower price and score a better sale? Your choice.
THE PEN PAL
Who knows what secrets lurk in old writing desks, cubbyholes and letter boxes?
Your assignment: When the protagonist of your movie inherits an ancestor’s house, s/he realizes it will need a thorough cleaning in order to make it habitable. The first place where s/he starts is the room where the ancestor used to compose letters. In a secret drawer, the discovery is made that the ancestor had a famous pen pal that no one in the family ever knew about. Write a one-page film synopsis around this premise and identify (1) who it was, (2) how did this friendship come about, (3) why was their communication kept a secret, and (4) what would happen if this correspondence was ever made public.
YOU THREW OUT WHAT????
When I was in high school, it wasn’t uncommon to come home and discover my bedroom had been completely redecorated. This was also in conjunction with my mother’s habit of throwing out any items – books, clothes, souvenirs - that didn’t resonate with her own definition of “importance.” What price sentimentality? That’s the gist of your next writing challenge.
Your assignment: The two characters in the film short you want to write not only share the same office and a partners’ desk but have also had a successful career as playwrights. One of them is a neat freak and the other is a bit of a slob. The neat freak decides one day while his/her partner is out of the office to do a massive tidying up of the other’s half of the desk and, in doing so, throws out an innocuous item perceived to be worthless. Write a four-page scene in which the true value of that item is revealed and a surprising side or secret of the wronged party illustrates that – despite years of working together – the neat freak had absolutely no clue.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.