Prompts and resources:
Usually in this space, dear reader, we share true and interesting biographical information about the author who inspires our writing prompts. However, given that we find the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events is typically prone to spreading deliberate misinformation, we regret that we cannot vouch for any details about Lemony Snicket (if that is his real name). We were able to gather some semi-reliable information on a "Daniel Handler" (if that is his real name), who has claimed on various occasions to be Lemony Snicket's "representative" or even Snicket himself.
Daniel Handler is the author of three books for adults. In addition to his writing, Handler purports to be an accomplished accordion player. The name Daniel Handler is credited on The Magnetic Field's album "69 Love Songs." Always interested in music, before he took up the accordion, Handler was a soprano with the San Francisco Boys Chorus.
Mr. Handler also professes to "love it when things go badly" and tries to discipline himself to be undisciplined. Hence, we suspect he does indeed have something to do with Mr. Snicket's chronicling of the misadventures of the Baudelaire orphans. Given this knowledge, dear reader, perhaps you would be wise to avoid these Exquisite Prompts inspired by such a shady and unreliable figure. The results can only be disastrous.
Prompt for Grades K-2 (Level I)
A cliff-hanger is a part of a story that leaves the reader in suspense about what will happen next. Its purpose is to encourage the reader to continue reading by leaving a character in a perilous situation—a phrase which means the character is in danger. The main characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events and in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure are often faced with threats and danger and it is exciting to read then wonder about how or if they will survive.
Fill us with wonder and worry! We want you to write about yourself or a character that is having a particularly nice day and is walking to the park to meet a friend. What could possibly go wrong? Something does! Write about two things that go wrong on your walk and at the park. These things leave you or the friend in terrible danger. Write about the danger, but don't give us a happy ending—or any ending at all. We'll be waiting for your entry on the edge of our seats!
Prompt for Grades 3-5 (Level II)
Though Lemony Snicket shares seemingly endless stories of tragedy concerning Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, he is also generous in his description of the talents that each of the Baudelaire orphans possess. Violet, the eldest, particularly excels at inventing things and is often able to do so with whatever materials are on hand. This comes in quite handy as she and her brother and sister are often in precarious situations where an invention is needed in order to rescue themselves from almost certain death.
- a broken swing from a swing set
- several candy wrappers
- sand or mulch
- a soccer ball
- bendy straws from juice boxes
- a scarf
- four bricks
The dangerous situation that requires your invention is that a very glum gorilla has escaped from the zoo and has taken over the monkey bars on the school playground. Please describe how you built your invention and how it works to save you or your friends from the gorilla. You don't have to use all the materials if you don't need to. You may also draw an instructional diagram or picture of your invention.
In homage—a word that means a show of respect—to Mr. Snicket, please give an alliterative name to your invention, which means that what you call your invention should use words that have the same consonant sound at the beginning of each word or syllable. "Great Gorilla Grabber" would be an example.
Prompt for Grades 6-8 (Level III)
An obituary could be defined as the final word about the deceased. In the case of L. Snicket however, his obituary in The Daily Punctilio was not the final word, but a great number of words that incorrectly described his life. Plus, he was also not dead.
As it might be rather startling for a living author to come across his own obituary, in this prompt we ask you to write an obituary about an author who has died. The author you write about must have died at least 19 years ago. In order to write the obituary, you will have to conduct research about your author so that you may include the author's date and place of birth, most notable facts and memorable information about the author's life, information about the author's childhood, schooling, profession, and family life, and the author's age and cause of death.
Prompt for Grades 9-12 (Level IV)
Assuming Lemony Snicket's identity does have its benefits. A Series of Unfortunate Events made Daniel Handler very rich—not J.K. Rowling rich, but very rich. Handler wrote in The New York Times, "I have a lot of money. I've acquired it by writing children's books about terrible things happening to orphans, and this seems like such a crazy and possibly monstrous way of acquiring money that I give a lot of it away."
Giving away money or spending time to help others is known as philanthropy. It is something that is usually considered an adult enterprise since adults are typically the ones with money or are running the projects that need the money. But all ages can get in on the act.
So in this prompt, we ask you to develop a project on behalf of a cause and write to a potential benefactor or foundation. In the nonprofit sector, this kind of business letter is often called a Letter of Inquiry. Many foundations that might financially support your cause or project use these preliminary letters to figure out if they are interested in your project before accepting a formal proposal. An effective letter of inquiry can be more difficult to write than a full proposal as it should be brief, to the point, but thoroughly address the problem and solution your project addresses. It should include information about you and who you are helping, a description of your project, and what you need to make it successful. You should also include who, if anyone will help you carry out the project, and a timetable.
More about Lemony Snicket
- Official Lemony Snicket website
- Lemony Snicket: Interview
- Snicket Caught on Tape (video)
- Interview with Daniel Handler
- A Conversation with Daniel Handler (video)
- Educator Resources for The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, Episode 12
Resources on cliff-hangers
- The Adventures of Cliff Hanger (video)
- Cliffhangers! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads
- Write a Cliffhanger
More about inventing
More about deceased authors
More about writing obituaries
- The Advanced Orbit: How to structure and write an obituary
- Speaking of the Speaker
- George Washington's obituary