Some ramblings from Tina... not real organized but....

First of all, like Ben, I love Richard Peck's, Past Perfect, Present Tense book. The short story, "Priscilla and the Wimps" is a 'classic' in my book and my students loooove it! It's such a great "middle school" text and in the afore-mentioned book (where you'll find this story plus many others), Peck discusses the process of writing this story which helps us as a class to, "read like writers." This is also a 'nicely simple' story which works well in working with the plot chart and the characterization web. It's also fun to act-out! : )

Now let me back up....
To introduce the plot chart and 5 methods of characterization web, I have my students focus on themselves first (which they love). In other words, they write an 8-sentence story that involves THEM and then they label each sentence according the plot chart. Because they're able to add drawings to this, they tend to really get in to it! I'll show you my form if you're interested--it's sort of difficult to put into words... it's just 'evolved' over the years....
For the characterization web, I give students big, blank paper and have them draw someone they know very, very well (themselves or someone else). Next, they label the person (drawing) according to P.A.R.T.S (the five methods of characterization). Confusing? Come see me as I have examples of this as well.
And trust me, I CAN'T draw but I do for these projects and by showing my own examples, the students really get excited....
Doing the above projects helps students move in to more difficult short stories (and therefore more involved plots and characters).

I also like Monda Gardner's, "The Dinner Party" (an easy plot chart) as a quick story to spend a day or two on.... again, a GREAT one to "act out"--the students looove it--if you want to extend it for a few days! (Especially when they get to "scream!" about the snake!!!)