Text: The Story and Its Writer, An Introduction to Short Fiction, compact
6th edition, Ann Charters(Required)
The Elements of Style, Strunk and White (Recommended)
Course Description and Goals: English 225 is a beginning course in the writing of fiction. The level of the workshop will accommodate both new and experienced writers, as all writers benefit from exercises and reviewing craft. It is assumed that you have taken a literature course that involved the study of the short story. If you have not, let me know. The most important thing is your personal resolve to improve your own writing, to accept constructive criticism from the instructor and other student writers, and to revise and polish your stories. Other student writers will provide a sympathetic but also critical audience for your work. Writing exercises, reading assignments, journal keeping, thoughtful critiques of other students’ work will also be required. Attendance and participation are mandatory.
Upon successful completion of this course, you should be familiar with such basic elements of crafting fiction as structure, plot, characterization, point-of-view, voice, setting, and style and be able to analyze fiction from a writer’s perspective. As far as your readings, I have carefully selected readings that will give you a since of the diverse voices that are available. It is my hope that you will appreciate them in order to become a better writer, as well as a more open-minded person.
Additional Philosophy (Adopted from Author, John Dalton) Critics of creative writing classes have long argued that no instructor or textbook can teach beginning writers how to write. Organized courses simply don’t work because compelling fiction comes from places too subconscious, too deeply personal, too mysterious to reach. And these critics are right. But what they fail to recognize is that every beginning writer has to spend years learning the craft of fiction. Simply being able to identify and discuss specific writing techniques is an important first step. Then there is the matter of employing these techniques in one’s own fiction, writing, rewriting, trying, failing, trying again. A good writing course accelerates the process, and, in many cases, saves the writer valuable time in learning the craft of fiction.
This is not to say that Writing of Fiction: Introductory is a class only for students who are certain they want to dedicate their lives to writing. There is room in this class for those who wish to explore fiction writing for the first time; such explorers, though, should be enthusiastic readers. Even though their majors and primary interests lie in other areas, they should have a keen interest in creating their own fiction and in reading the work of other students and well-known contemporary short story writers. The class will be demanding, time-consuming, and, I hope, thought provoking and rewarding. Please note: this is not an easy elective for those hoping to round out their schedules with a light-weight or otherwise unchallenging course.
Learning Goals Adopted by the Creative Writing Program
1. To develop artistic abilities by focusing intensively, under faculty guidance, on fiction
2. To learn sophisticated models of revision; sharpen reading, editorial and analytical skills; and cultivate the ability to articulate matters of craft and literary theory.
3. To become familiar with formal possibilities for writing and explore the historical development of narrative through a close study of the structure of fiction.
4. To develop a broader knowledge base of contemporary works and the literary canon.
5. To enhance professional development with the support of a community of faculty, fellow students, and distinguished visiting writers.
You need to plan on photocopying your work—roughly 20 copies of each story you submit to for workshop. This process might be cheaper at a copy shop if you bring your own paper.
1) Set aside certain hours of certain days for fiction writing. Make a schedule and stick to it. A late night, last minute writing session will produce poor or uneven work, work that you will be reluctant to hand in to your instructor and fellow students for workshop.
2) Be thorough and conscientious in your critiques of other students’ work. Let them know what is working, but just as importantly make it clear what they have accomplished, what elements of their stories engaged your emotions, or made you think.
3) When it comes to your final revised story, make sure you understand specifically what improvements need to be made. The best way to do this is to read the workshop critiques carefully and talk over your ideas or concerns with the instructor.
Requirements and Grading (Yes, when you “do the math” here, it
adds up to more than 100 points. The extra is built in as “extra credit” for
those who may find themselves in need):
• Two complete short stories. A complete story is one you have spent time thinking about, crafting, polishing and present to the instructor and a group of classmates for workshop. Stories must be typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. font, on letter-sized paper, legibly printed in black ink, with pages numbered. All work must be proofread for mechanical errors—sloppy text and excessive errors will count against your grade. Your critiques do not have to be as polished as your stories, but must be legible. Guidelines for the substance and tone of critiques will be provided. You must attend the classes in which your work is to be critiqued, and in the case of an unavoidable absence, you should contact me as far in advance as possible. Stories are due for workshop THE CLASS BEFORE they are to be read.(40 %)
• A reading journal that records your reactions to well-known contemporary short stories you’ll read outside of class. You will be presented with a list of short story collections on hold at the UNCG library (of course, you may also acquire these collections on your own). You’ll read ten outside stories over the course of the semester. In your journal you’ll create ten entries revealing not just your opinions of these stories but you’ll also describe what the stories taught you about fiction craft. (10%)
•Quizzes: Technique and/or short-answer reading responses. (10%)
• Your written responses (end notes and margin notes) that you make on other students’ stories. Several times during the semester, I will look at EACH story prior to class workshop to guage the quality of the notes. It is unfortunate that time needs to be spent this way, but it necessary to ensure that each student is benefiting from the notes. (10%)
• Class attendance and participation: read the assigned stories and come to class ready to talk about them. Read other students stories and join in on the workshop discussion. The work in a workshop is done at the shop;, attendance is vital, as is punctuality. You will learn as much from the discussion of someone else’s story as you will from your own. You are allowed two unexcused absences before your final grade will be severely affected. If you miss more than four classes without a valid excuse I will drop you from the roster. Should you have to miss a class when the stories are distributed, it is your responsibility to come up with the assigned stories, either from me or from a classmate. (I suggest exchanging information with a classmate immediately, in the event that you cannot reach me.) Should you, for some reason, miss class when your story is up, you forfeit class discussion of that story (15%)
• Final: A revised short story. You’ll choose one of your two short stories workshopped in class and revise it using workshop recommendations made by the instructor and other students. This revision will encompass both large changes (new or rewritten scenes, added characters or descriptions) and small changes (tinkering with words and phrases). This revised story is due on the last day of class, though it may be turned in earlier. (20%)
Conferences: You will be required to meet with me at least once this semester, but I’m also happy to meet a few times, if needed. I ask only that you schedule a time one day or so in advance for longer conferences. Normally, I will be available after each class if someone has immediate concerns.
Visiting Writers: I will require that you attend at least one reading during
the semester, and will provide you with a schedule of dates and times.
Tentative Reading List (Subject to change at any given time)
Tu. 8/16 Intro, talk about writing, journals, time to write
Th. 8/15 Grace Paley, “A Conversation with Ann Charters,” Margaret
Atwood, “Reading Blind,” Richard Wright, “Reading Fiction”
(will give POV handout, if available)
Tu. 8/23 Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Why
I Wrote the
‘ Yellow Wallpaper’” Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl,” also, Jamaica Kincaid, “On Girl”
Th. 8/25 James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues,” and James Baldwin,
“ Autobiographical Notes” Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson,” (Possible short film)
Tu. 8/30 Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “Cathedral”
Th. 9/1 Alice Munro, “Family Furnishings,” “How I Write Short Stories”
Tu 9/6 Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried,” Alice Walker, “Everyday Use” (Participants for first workshop hand in stories)
` Workshop Signup
(Note: if you are signed up and have to make a change to a slot that is already taken, talk to the student, not me. Give me the information once it has been agreed upon.)
Attention! Reminder! My story is due ______ and will be workshopped _____(If no one signs up for dates, additional readings will be substituted)
Sept. 8 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 13 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 15 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept 20 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 27 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 29____________________ and ___________________
Oct. 6 no class – fall break
Oct. 11 ____________________ and ____________________
Oct. 13 ____________________ and ____________________
Oct. 18 ____________________ and ____________________
Oct. 25 ____________________ and ____________________
Oct. 27____________________ and ___________________
Nov.1 ____________________ and ____________________
Nov.3 ____________________ and ____________________
Nov.8 ____________________ and ____________________
Nov. 15 ____________________ and ____________________
Nov. 17____________________ and ___________________
Nov. 22 ____________________ and ____________________
Nov.29 ____________________ and ____________________
Dec. 1 ____________________ and ____________________(Last Day of Class)