Course Schedule

Schedule (Tentative–the story list may change, so be on the lookout!)
January 13—Introduction: Syllabus, Five Elements, Et cetera

  • Homework: “The First Day” by Edward P. Jones
  • In-class writing
  • Five Elements of a Successful Story #1  (Due Jan 15)

January 15—Character

  • Discuss “The First Day” and Five Elements
  • Homework: “Siamese Twins,” Brett Bender
  • Homework: Exercise A: Invent a character total unlike yourself and describe an uneventful day in that character’s life. The differences between you and your character might include age, race, gender, socio-economic status, geography—even the time in which your character lives. The point of this exercise is to consider the details of the day-to-day life of someone very different from you—waking up, getting dressed, going to work—and what someone very different from you thinks about those details (a silly example of the kind of detail and reaction I’m describing: you love the sound of birds singing in the morning, but your character hates birds). The day should be uneventful in order to focus on character; this is not the day he meets his wife, or she gets hit by a car, or he finds a sack of money in the trash, or she wins PowerBall. (250-500 words)

January 20—MLK DAY, NO CLASS

January 22–Discuss Exercise A and “Siamese Twins”

  • Homework: Exercise B: In his book Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster says “a story [is] a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot.” Keeping in mind this definition of plot, return to the character from Exercise A and involve him or her in a 250 to 500-word story that focuses on plot: the relationship between what happens to the character and how she or he relates to what happens.

January 27—POV

Discuss “Sexy” and Exercise B


  • Dear Shorty,” Eddie Chuculate
  • Mule Killers,”  Lydia Peele
  • Homework: Exercise C: Describe the same scene (a party, a sunset, a train wreck, etc) as witnessed by two characters who see it in two very different ways: a man and a woman, a child and an adult, an American and a Canadian, etc. (250 each POV, 500 words total)

January 29—Setting & Pacing

Discuss “Mule Killers” & “Dear Shorty” and Exercise C’


  •  “Werewolves in their Youth” Michael Chabon
  • Delicate, Edible Birds” by Lauren Groff
  • Homework: Exercise D: In a story no shorter than 250 words and no longer than 750 words, move a character through three different settings. The point of this exercise is to consider how different settings might cause a character to think or act in different ways.

February 3 —Dialog

Discuss “Werewolves in their Youth;” “Delicate, Edible Birds” and Exercise D


  • Emergency,” Denis Johnson
  • Man and Wife” by Katie Chase
  • Exercise E: Tell a story in dialog. Use few or no tags (he said, she yelled, I mumbled) and little or no exposition: nothing but speech. There should be at least two speakers, and each should be easily identifiable even without the tags: one begins every sentence “Well . . .”; one speaks in very short sentences; one offers her thoughts in long, rambling, run-on sentences, etc.(250-500 words)

February 5—Description & Voice

Discuss “Emergency,” “Man and Wife” and Exercise E


  • “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Exercise F: Write in the first person a review of a restaurant that does not exist (and may serve a kind of food that does not exist) or a movie that has never been made; or an encyclopedia entry about a place, person, or event that has never existed, lived, or occurred; or a memo from a fictional boss to her fictional employees about a fictional work issue; or the liner notes for a fictional greatest hits album from a fictional band; or use any other “authoritative” form. Use numerous details. Those details should both add verisimilitude, and seek to tell the reader something about the fictional reviewer, encyclopedist, boss, etc. (500 words)

February 10 Discuss “Where are you going, Where have you been?”; Exercise F; Sample workshop, Signing up for workshop dates

Workshop Begins!

February 12

February 17

February 19

February 24–

February 26 No Class

March 3

March 5

March 10

March 12

March 17–19 SPRING BREAK

March 24

March 26

March 31

April  2

April 7

April 9

April 14

April 16

April 21

April 23

April 28  Last Day of Class/Portfolios due.  The portfolio must include:

  • Original Versions of stories (2)
  • Revision Plan for one story
  • Revision of one workshop short story
  • Five Elements of a Successful Story assignment #2

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