This course—structured around a combination of lectures (expect drawings!), discussions, and generative exercises—offers the opportunity to read and write a range of fiction, creative nonfiction, and hybrid forms, as well as to read additional texts focused on craft and theory. We’ll consider classification, genre, technique, and revision when writing prose, with a particular emphasis on artistic decision-making. In many ways, our exploration of this subject matter will be grounded in the recognition that traditional creative writing methods are often based on problematic and limiting expectations of the artist, reader, and audience. How can we challenge, subvert, overcome, and deconstruct these expectations? What can we, as writers, do to take full control of our own stories?
Week 1: Classification and Genre – In the first week, we’ll explore how we categorize our writing, genre definitions, and various approaches to setting goals for our creative work.
Week 2: Conventions, Methods, and Audience – We’ll cover genre conventions as well as the contextual nature of craft. We’ll discuss traditional craft mantras and their pitfalls (as well as counterexamples) and begin establishing a common language of craft terms.
Week 3: Structure and Time – Finding the architecture for a work of short fiction or essay can be extremely difficult, even if we have an instinctive understanding of how to effectively tell a story. This week, we’ll discuss macrocosmic and microcosmic structural decisions and the relationship to time and chronology.
Week 4: Setting and Character – Now halfway through the course, we’ll examine the reciprocal relationship between setting and characterization. In particular, we’ll focus on the esoteric details characters notice and how macrocosmic social, cultural, and political systems control character decision-making.
Week 5: Point of View – We’ll cover first, second, and third person point of view, as well as discuss fiction and nonfiction examples that manipulate or alternate point of view.
Week 6: What Propels Our Prose – For many writers, there’s no higher praise than achieving sentence-level electricity. This week focuses on rhythm, syntax, diction, punctuation, and the minute decisions we make to help our stories pop.
Week 7: Finding Your Shape: On Arcs and Endings – Revisiting our early lesson on structure, we’ll now expand to include late considerations like reconstructing or altering the plot, honing character development, and, in particular, finding your ending.
Week 8: The Art of Revision – Our final class will be dedicated to long-term revision strategies. Students will be provided a revision checklist and tools for navigating their creative work moving forward.
This 8-week class is designed for beginner and intermediate prose writers.