University of Iowa

Extra/Ordinary: Merging the Real and Surreal in Fiction

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

In this weekend workshop, we’ll read and write fiction that breaches the parameters of strict realism by incorporating elements of the supernatural, the shocking, and the absurd. We’ll consider the effect of using “strangeness” to draw readers in, disarm them, and reset their expectations, with the ultimate goal of more brightly illuminating the “real” conflicts we wish to explore.


On Saturday, we’ll look at published stories influenced by sci fi, fantasy, and horror, and consider the long reach of the traditional fairy tale. We’ll also do a series of writing exercises that ask you to employ exaggeration, invention, and satire. Overnight, writers will choose one exercise to develop and revise, and on the second day of class, we’ll workshop the expanded exercises. Our aim is to experiment with a variety of surreal or unexpected narrative elements, taking care not to overshadow the nuances of our stories, but to enhance the examination of our characters’ lives instead. How do we make the extraordinary feel ordinary? And make the ordinary feel extraordinary as well?


This generative workshop is open to story writers and novelists at all levels of experience.

Short Story