Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Fiction Writing Workshop

ENGL 112.302
W 3:30-6:30

This is a course for students interested in serious fiction writing-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 from an anthology and some-very little-"instructional" material. We will discuss the fictions primarily as writers, as opposed to literary "analyzers." We will talk about why the stories engage us and why not. We will identify their "prime movers," that is, the elements in a narrative that urge us-or not-through them. Are the characters interesting and consistent (where this question applies, usually to conventional, realistic fiction as opposed to metafiction, where the question is often irrelevant)? Is there sufficient movement (action, plot, story)? Can we appreciate the art of the narration's technique? Is there a discernable style that we can appreciate?

We will ask the same questions of student work during workshops, which will begin early in the term. Workshop pieces can be revised-you are expected to revise everything, particularly your major assignments-and then submitted as your graded writing assignments. Students will be expected to critique and write short responses to all workshop pieces under discussion.

Students will have their work critiqued by the class at least twice during the semester. At the end of the semester, students will be asked to submit a minimum of 20 revised pages.

Throughout the term, students will be required to write three brief scenes, length open, all of which can be used-reworked, let's hope-in the longer requirements. These are due: 4th week, 7th week, and 10th week. Naturally, a scene can be dialogue-driven (almost all dialogue) or, at the other extreme, completely exposition (no dialogue). If the scene does not come at the beginning of a narrative, then you will need to write a brief set-up as an introduction to the scene. Permission required: please email a sample of your work directly to

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Creative Writing Seminar Requirement of the Creative Writing Track