The University of Iowa

Who’s That Knocking? (Plot Fundamentals)

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020

Not every story needs the cranked-up tension of Indiana Jones fleeing a boulder-sized bowling ball, and not every novel needs the nail-biting suspense of a murder mystery; but if a reader doesn’t care what’s happening scene to scene, or the plot doesn’t intrigue us on some level, the jig is up. In this weekend session, open to all levels, we’ll explore the basics of plotting and look for answers to perennial questions: How much information should we withhold? How off-balance do we want the reader to be and for how long? How high do the stakes have to be? Through guided exercises, we’ll dig into the great storehouse of human conflicts, exploring how tension and suspense—on various scales—can beef up scenes. In addition, we’ll discuss some of the ways (we could never cover them all!) that an author earns a reader’s trust, and approaches to larger patterns of promises, revelations, and twists.


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

Short Story
Young Adult