University of Iowa

Who Is I?: Experiments in Fictional Identity

Weekend June 22 to June 23 2019

We use the word “I” countless times every day to refer to ourselves. But in fiction, “I” refers to something else. It refers to a storytelling creature we invent who has an identity of his or her own. In this class, which is open to writers of all experience levels, we are going to explore the possibilities of first-person singular in fiction. The class is generative; there is no need to bring anything other than your imagination. We will start out by experimenting with autobiographical voices. Who are we really and how do we represent ourselves in stories? But most of our time will be spent doing exercises where you are asked to plumb the psyches of characters whom you may have some personal connection with but who are, in many ways, very different from you. You will create first-person narrators that are everything from damaged to intimate, unreliable to irresistible, from many walks of life. You will mask your narrators, then peel back the masks to reveal deeper meanings. Over the course of the weekend, you will extend your range as a creative writer, taking new risks and discovering new types of fictional truths. By putting yourself in the minds of characters that may make you uneasy, you will confront some of your biggest fears about writing and see what emerges. By the time you go home, you will be on the path to creating exciting, unpredictable new work.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts.

Short Story