Paolo Bacigalupi said, “Short fiction seems more targeted – hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them.” And despite the purported waning popularity of the short story, there are still thousands of writers out there honing their craft with the form. So how do we make our stories rise to the level of unforgettable? In this eight-week class, we’ll undergo an in-depth study of some of the masters of the practice and see how we can apply that to our
During the first half of the course, we’ll use in-class writing assignments and craft discussion as well as take-home assignments to work toward the goal of completing a solid draft of a short story. In the last half, we’ll spend the bulk of our time workshopping our stories by first discussing what the writer is doing well, then offering constructive feedback and questions designed to give the author insight into how their peers in the classroom are interpreting their work. We will also spend time discussing revision methods and doing exercises in editing.
Week 1 – The Story that Made Us Want to Write Stories. We’ll discuss some of our favorite works of short fiction and identify the qualities in them that inspired us to write our own. We’ll discuss the elements of the craft and think about the objectives of a successful short story.
Week 2 – Going Further with Plot. Is there enough happening in our stories? Do they follow a logical consistency? Are there other ways to approach plot besides the traditional narrative triangle? We’ll explore ways to tell effective stories that keep the reader engaged and entertained without surrendering to rote formulas.
Week 3 – Indelible Characters. In short stories, writers often endeavor to find the uncommon qualities in the common person. We’ll talk about how to free our characters to take action, act out, and in some cases, get out of their own heads as we discover what makes them unique and compelling.
Week 4 – Using Narrative Distance. Point of view is an important decision in how we tell our stories, but even more important is how close our narratives hew to the inner thought process of our protagonists. Are we privy to their every thought, or do they withhold information from us, choosing to let their words and actions convey meaning the reader must intuit? We’ll look at how various writers have used these techniques to complement their stories.
Week 5 – Staying in the Present, Understanding the Past. Everyone has a past, but how critical is that to the story we are telling? We’ll dive into techniques to make sure the backstory supports the ongoing story in our work and feels vital rather than expository.
Week 6 – Revising Draft 1. In this session, we’ll talk about methods to turn a potentially messy first draft into a much more polished second one.
Week 7 – Revising Drafts 3-N. In our second class on revision, we’ll discuss how we fine-tune our work and get it over the finish line.
Week 8 – Getting Your Story into the World. In our final session, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of short story publishing, including the right time to submit, how to figure out where to send your story, what a cover letter should look like, and all the other things you need to know to see your work in print.
WHAT WILL THIS CLASS INCLUDE?
Outside reading: Yes, we’ll read one short story per week (around 20 pages). Authors might include: Danielle Evans, Jamel Brinkley, Steve Almond, Steven Millhauser, Lauren Groff, Curtis Sittenfield, etc.