This five-week workshop from 2020 NEA Literature Fellow Ben Hoffman will cover the basics of writing fiction: showing vs. telling, beginnings and endings; scene and dialogue; point-of-view and plot.
We’ll mix workshop, craft lectures, and discussion of stories by authors like Grace Paley, YiYun Li, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Rebecca Lee to deepen our understanding of fiction and bring out the best in our own work. Perhaps you’ve taken a few workshops and are looking for a refresher, perhaps you have a half-finished draft you want to finish, perhaps you’re an avid reader who’s completely new to writing fiction—no matter what, this workshop will meet you where you’re at and help you move forward. You’ll leave with specific ideas for how to revise your story, as well as a more solid foundation when it comes to writing your next one. This class is open to all genres, though workshop will have a literary bent.
Week 1: Surprise vs. Suspense: What’s the difference? What does a reader need to know, and what should be withheld from them? What role does information play in narrative? How can we rethink the traditional show-vs.-tell paradigm?
Week 2: Beginnings & Endings: What does plot look like in short stories? How do we construct effective beginnings and get things moving? And what is it about the short story form that makes endings so difficult to nail?
Week 4: Making a Scene: Scenes are often considered the building blocks of narrative story-telling—but what should they accomplish? What should we leave out? Are there tricks for writing effective dialogue?
Week 4: Getting Weird: What does it mean to think of strangeness as an inherent positive quality in art? How do we embrace our weirdness, avoid cliché, and strive to make our stories uniquely our own?
Week 5: Revision: How do we cut through the mess of our drafts to find our stories’ beating heart? What should we bring to the surface and what should we submerge? How much of writing is rewriting?