This is a course for students interested in writing fiction--literary or genre or somewhere in between--but always seriously and always with a mind to perfecting the work at hand. To that end, we will read short fiction--because it is manageable, not because the aim of the course is to write short stories--taken from the anthology The Art of the Tale, edited by Daniel Halpern (Penquin) or The Story and Its Writer edited by Ann Charters. We will read conventional narratives as well as unconventional pieces. We will discuss the fictions primarily as writers. Do the stories engage us? Why? Are the characters compelling? Can we appreciate the art of the story’s technique? Is there “music” in the piece that appeals to us?
We will ask the same questions of student work during workshops, which will begin early in the semester. Ideally, each student will see two workshop sessions devoted to his or her work, with the second workshop open, if desired, to another draft of the prose discussed in the first workshop. During the workshop, one student will serve as the editor of the piece under evaluation. The editor’s role is to know the workshopped piece thoroughly and to lead the discussion. The editor will also generate a formal, typed evaluation of the piece to be given to the author and to be handed in.
There is a single major writing assignment: prose of 25 pages, minimum. This can be a single story or two or possibly three, or, under some circumstances, chapters of a longer work. Throughout the semester (nearly every week), students will be required to write smaller prose pieces, all of which can be used--reworked, let’s hope--in the longer requirement. The shorter assignments are: a monologue, a dialogue, two character sketches, several descriptions of place (interior and exterior, not excluding fantastical, if preferred), an outline of a plot of “motion,” and one of a relationship (to be explained further), a scene. Obviously, the characters from your sketches can participate in a dialogue in a place to comprise a scene. But not necessarily so. Students will be asked to read these brief constructions outloud in class.
Class participation is vital and expected.