Characterization—creating believable and interesting people on the page—is an absolutely essential part of successful fiction writing, and it is equally important to narrative nonfiction forms such as memoir or literary journalism. It is also one of the most complex elements of craft, with many different means of achieving it and quite a few ways in which it can fall short.
Any prose benefits from sharpening the tools most often associated with playwriting: monologue, dialogue, and silence. Whether it is in the compelling presence of the monologue in the radio work of NPR’s Ira Glass and David Sedaris, the sharp stylized dialogue in the plays of Harold Pinter and August Wilson, the aching humor found in the scripts of Amazon’s Transparent, or the wry poignant humor in the stories of Lorrie Moore, modern prose leans heavily on theatrical instances of people speaking to each other and to themselves.
“The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it.”—Gaston Bachelard
You’ve finally carved out some time in your life to write. You have great ideas, maybe even a new computer. But when you sit down to write, your muse refuses to speak. Or worse, the muse gets you started, and then disappears for weeks at a time. Should you give up? Move on to a different project? Are you just not talented enough? Or is there some way to coax your muse back?
Writing can be a solitary and frustrating endeavor. It’s one reason many writers enroll in M.F.A. creative writing programs: to be part of a vibrant literary scene. Of course, not everyone can drop everything to pursue a multi-year M.F.A. With that in mind, this workshop is designed to give you a concentrated version of the close reading and community you might find in a creative writing graduate program. We’ll engage in intense, extended discussions of each writer’s story (or novel chapter), offering thorough and thoughtful feedback as a way of challenging each other and ourselves.
Writing can be a solitary and frustrating endeavor. It’s one reason many writers enroll in M.F.A. creative writing programs: to be part of a vibrant literary scene. Of course, not everyone can drop everything to pursue a multi-year M.F.A. This workshop is designed to give you a concentrated version of the close reading and community you might find in a creative writing graduate program. Over the weekend, we’ll engage in intense, extended discussions of each writer’s story (or novel chapter), offering thorough and thoughtful feedback as a way of challenging each other and ourselves.
There is a movement happening in literary fiction that embraces the weird, the surreal, and the unexpected. It’s becoming more common in annuals such as The Best American Short Stories in the form of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction and horror) as well as magical realism, neo-noir, and other writing that isn’t primarily (or only) realistic. In this class, we will study examples of the new weird.
As an author with over 100 stories published, I’ve sent out my writing for years, and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with you. As the editor of four anthologies, as well as Editor-in-Chief of Dark House Press and Gamut, I bring insight from the other side, too. In this weekend, we will focus on several crucial aspects of publishing your short stories, including research. It’s about more than just reading the publications. There are a plethora of tools available—Duotrope, Ralan, The Grinder, Poets & Writers, etc.
In this workshop, we will take Raymond Carver’s advice as our point of departure (“Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.”) and explore the virtues of writing short stories, short exercises, and other short forms, and the downside of “lingering” in fiction.
Whether you call it a “short-short,” “micro fiction,” “sudden fiction,” “quick fiction,” or “flash fiction,” a 500-word short story is anything but slight. Taking Flannery O’Connor’s advice that “if you can’t get a lot from a little, you probably won’t be able to get a lot from a lot” as our point of departure, we’ll devote an entire weekend to writing 500-word stories. How much can you get from a little characterization, a little plot, a little setting?