The University of Iowa

Passages: Shifting Emotions, Moving the Reader

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020

Like movie music, good storytelling flows through many emotions. At times it can seem as if these changing emotions actually are the story. For example, imagine a character who feels like one big Sousa-esque march, she’s all rat-a-tat-tat and boom-boom-boom; but her luck changes, and her sense of adventure breaks down into squeaks and squawks and off-beat bass drums, a wheezing quiet, the crash of a dropped cymbal; from the ensuing silence emerges a new sound, the icy tinkle of toy piano, each step she takes is now fearful, brittle, lonely, echoing; until, with the brushing of distant wind chimes, the string section stirs to life, playing a variation of the original march: in this progression, we already have the bones of a story. Even though there’s no plot, we as readers intuitively understand, when we encounter that icy dread, that the story has turned; and then again at the swelling of the strings. In this weekend workshop, we’ll get better at recognizing and developing transitions. The class is open to all levels of prose writers, but will be particularly useful for those who feel comfortable with their written voice and are looking for techniques to expand how they engage their readers lyrically. We’ll be generating new writing in each of the weekend’s four sessions; the prompts and our discussion will explore different tones and the emotional effects of different transitions and allow you to experiment with moods you might not normally consider using in your writing. You’ll come away with the start of future projects, a greater sense of what moves your reader, and a more attuned “ear” for the heartbeats sustaining your work.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our weekend.

All Genres
Hybrid Forms
Short Story
Young Adult