University of Iowa

Time on My Side?: Managing Time and Tension in Fiction

Weeklong July 14 to July 19 2019

Our stories can move chronologically. They can also zigzag and weave in and out of time, utilizing flashback to thrust the plot forward and to strengthen and enhance lines of tension—worry, pressure, stress, dis-ease—that our characters experience as their worlds unfold and reveal struggles for them to face, to ponder, to question, to conquer, to perish from. In this workshop, we will consider how to manage the past, present, and the future in our fiction, while simultaneously watering the seeds of suspense. How do we keep a firm hold on the plot while using time to unlock certain doors and reveal surprising information that propels the story forward?


Each day, we will study excerpts of fiction that handle time in engaging, dynamic ways, including works by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Nathan Englander, Ann Patchett, Margot Livesey, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Gaines. After these micro-studies on craft, we will launch into workshop. Writers of all levels and work at all stages of development are welcome. Whether you aspire to write a story or have written several, or you’ve written a novel or desire to but have not as yet, this is a workshop that understands that handling time, movement, and narrative tension can be (and is) a challenge for all of us. In our week together, you will gain an enduring set of applicable tools and craft exercises that will enable you to manage time with skill, clarity, confidence, and uniqueness so that your stories ring out with nuance, curiosity, and drama.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our week.

Short Story