University of Iowa

People, Emotion, Dialogue, Place, the Senses: Five Basic Tools in All Genres

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

Imagine a story about people who lack depth, or characters who lack emotional lives. Imagine these lusterless characters in hollow dialogue, in a setting so generic it fails to rise even to blandness. Imagine a story that blatantly ignores the richness our senses deliver. Insipid work is what we produce when we don’t utilize five basic tools that unleash soul and spirit into our writing. Each of these elements of story craft—developing the person, revealing emotion, using meaningful dialogue, creating an experience of place, and engaging our tactile senses—allows us to dig deeper into the how and why of the words we choose, and the order in which they appear. Whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, essays, history, comedy, mystery, inspiration, or romance, the basics are practical and consistently valuable. We’ll spend one day on each of these tools, exploring them via writing exercises, rich discussion, and in- and out-of-class assignments. Writing you bring from home, as well as writing we generate in class, will be workshopped in an environment that moves us forward. Writers at all levels are welcome—from those with “a little experience” to more practiced writers wanting to sharpen existing skills. I encourage you to send 5-15 pages ahead of time so I can familiarize myself with your style, but it is not a requirement. Come prepared for a rich experience in the classroom, from the assignments and from fellow students.