The University of Iowa

Scene, Summary, Reflection: The Essential Narrative Trio for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Memoir

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020

Whether we’re telling our own story, someone else’s story, or one we’re inventing, that story—whatever the genre, whatever its length— needs to unfold scene by scene. Yet it’s a rare story that’s told only through scene—summary is both an effective and a deft way to move our narrative along. It’s vital to understand the differences between these two essentials as we forge character and develop action. During our weekend together, we’ll explore what goes into building a scene, how that differs from summary, and when we use one or the other. We’ll also add one more essential: reflection. Characters, real and fictional, must be given opportunities to reflect on their circumstances. This workshop is designed for writers of all genres eager to grapple with this essential narrative trio: together, we’ll explore examples drawn from works of fiction (in a number of genres, including popular, literary, and historical) and from works of nonfiction and memoir (here too, incorporating a number of styles). Assignments, in and out of class, will allow you to apply these tools to your own work; you’ll leave with a muscular awareness of how to move your story along with vividness and power.


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