Writing Fiction | Winter 2022

Course Description

This course will be a seminar focused on fiction craft. Readings will include fiction from authors of diverse backgrounds and styles paired with essays dedicated to the craft of fiction writing. Lectures and discussions will consider the fundamental elements of fiction: point of view and psychic distance, narrative structure, character, dialogue, treatment of time, setting and description, style and voice.

Zoom Information

For all meetings:

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 846 3222 0077

Topic: Fiction Writing
Time: Jan 6, 2022 04:30 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Every week on Thu, 8 occurrence(s)
Jan 6, 2022 04:30 PM
Jan 13, 2022 04:30 PM
Jan 20, 2022 04:30 PM
Jan 27, 2022 04:30 PM
Feb 3, 2022 04:30 PM
Feb 10, 2022 04:30 PM
Feb 17, 2022 04:30 PM
Feb 24, 2022 04:30 PM

Class Schedule

01.06 | Introductions, Genre & Identity

  • Optional post-class reading
  • Sources for my talk:
    • Chavez, Felicia Rose. The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: Decolonizing the Creative Classroom. Haymarket Books, 2021.
    • Mura, David. A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing. The University of Georgia Press, 2018.
    • Percy, Benjamin. Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction. Graywolf Press, 2016.
    • Salesses, Matthew. Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping. Catapult, 2021.

01.13 | Point of View

01.20 | Dialogue and Voice

01.27 | The Art of Character

02.03 | Time in Fiction

02.10 | Description & Details, Signs & Symbols

  • David Means, “Two Nurses, Smoking
  • Charles Baxter, “Rhyming Action” (start on page 112 with the section that begins with “Robert Creeley once said about his stories…” The earlier, introductory part of the essay is basically just Baxter making fun of poets for not working very hard).
  • Optional post-class reading
    • For those interested in learning more about Derrida, his reading of Plato’s use of the term pharmakeus, and the idea that the author is not entirely in control of their own meaning: “Plato’s Pharmacy” by Jacques Derrida, from Disseminations, trans. Barabara Johnson.

02.17 | Narrative Structures

  • Madison Smartt Bell, “Linear Design” and “Modular Design” from Narrative Design.
  • Donald Barthelme, “The School” (just the story; you can skip the introductory commentary)
  • George Saunders, “The Perfect Gerbil

02.24 | Readings from Works-in-Progress


Craft Talks & Advice

  • New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Each month, The New Yorker Fiction Podcast features a story from the magazine’s archives read by a writer whose work has also been appeared in the New Yorker. After the reading, fiction editor Deborah Treisman and her guest discuss the story.
  • KCRW’s Bookworm. On his long-running podcast Bookworm, KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt interviews authors and poets, asking questions informed by his careful reading of nearly everything his guest has ever written.
  • IWP MOOC-Packs. The International Writing Program (a sister program of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) offers a number of freely accessible, massive open online courses (MOOCs) dedicated to aspects of fiction writing. Each of the IWP’s MOOC-Packs contains a series of online videos making up the self-directed course, together with a guide that explains how to use the materials to teach a class or lead a study group. Courses include How Writers Write Fiction (I & II), Stories of Place: Writing and the Natural World, and Moving the Margins: Fiction and Inclusion.
  • Craft and Advice. Advice and essays on craft from Literary Hub.
  • Don’t Write Alone. Craft essays curated by Catapult Magazine.
  • Craft Essays. Craft essays curated by Brevity magazine.

Writing Prompts