Creative Writing Course Descriptions & Syllabi


Introduction to Fiction Writing

This hybrid course combines elements of a literature course with the traditional writing workshop and teaches students the building blocks of writing fiction.

 

While studying published short stories, students will also write and revise their own short story. Directed reading and writing assignments will guide them through the process of invention, creation, and revision. This course will also introduce students to “the workshop." It will prepare them to participate in more advanced workshops in future courses.

 

By the end of the course, students will have:

  1)  investigated their creative goals and motives for writing fiction

  2)  reflected upon their reading habits and experiences

  3)  created a writer's notebook

  4)  learned the connection between character and plot

  5)  studied fictional forms such as flash fiction, epistolary fiction, framed

       stories, et cetera

  6)  explored how and why authors use different points of view

  7)  practiced various techniques of psychic distance, narration, description, and

       writing dialog

  9)  practiced revision as part of their writing process

 10) learned and practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant



Beginning Fiction Workshop

Once a student has completed the introduction to fiction course, they have the vocabulary to talk about the elements of fiction and the experience to participate in an intense workshop. This course focuses on student work via a writer's workshop while additional weekly readings and exercises will help students polish the technical aspects of their prose.

 

By the end of the course, students will have:

  1)  written and revised 2 original short stories

  2)  practiced close reading of works-in-progress and writing editorial memos by

       writing critiques of classmate stories

  3)  practiced revision as part of their writing process

  4)  practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

  5)  learned how to eliminate "to be" verbs from their prose

  6)  learned to identify junk words and eliminate them from their prose

  7)  mastered the idiosyncrasies of grammar and punctuation as they relate to fiction



Intermediate Fiction Workshop

Once a student completes the beginning workshop course, they have learned to polish the technical aspects of their prose. Their fiction should be free of technical errors, which opens the possibility of more in-depth discussions of style. This course focuses on student work via a writer's workshop while additional weekly readings and exercises will help students improve their control of such writing aspects as psychic distance, dialog, and when to use scene vs. narrative summary vs. exposition. Students will also continue to develop their own styles of narration and description.

 

By the end of the course, students will have:

  1)  written and revised 2 original short stories

  2)  practiced close reading of works-in-progress and writing editorial memos by

       writing critiques of classmate stories

  3)  practiced revision as part of their writing process

  4)  practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

  5)  learned control of psychic distance

  6)  practiced the art of dialog

  7)  mastered when to keep a scene as scene, when to convert it to narrative summary, and when to turn it into exposition.



Advanced Fiction Workshop

Once a student completes the beginning & intermediate workshop courses, they have learned how to polish the technical aspects of their prose and studied the stylistic and artful qualities of prose. Technically proficient and stylistically in control, students are ready to begin submitting their work to journals and participate in the larger literary community. This course focuses on student work via a writer's workshop while additional weekly assignments will help students enter the literary community, assess literary journals, and begin submitting their fiction for publication and to contests.

 

By the end of the course, students will have:

   1)  written and revised 2 original short stories

   2)  practiced close reading of works-in-progress and writing editorial memos by

         writing critiques of classmate stories

   3)  practiced revision as part of their writing process

   4)  practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

   5)  learned how to find appropriate journals to submit to

   6)  practiced formatting their manuscripts to submit

   7)  identified journals they will both subscribe and submit to

   8)  been introduced to the concept of literary citizenship

   9)  entered the literary community by attending events, joining clubs outside of the university, joining online communities, et cetera



Novel Writing

For practical reasons, most creative writing courses focus on short stories. In this advanced creative writing course, students will study how two authors transformed their short stories into novels and explore how to do the same with their own short fiction.

 

By the end of the course, students will have:

  1)   learned the three-act structure

  2)   learned how authors sustain tension throughout the length of a novel

  3)   mapped the plots and structures of well-known, popular novels such as Harry Potter

  4)   outlined the character arcs for all primary characters in these novels

  5)   learned how a novel’s plot/problem is defined by the needs and desires of the lead character

  6)   examined how Kaui Hart Hemmings and Karen Russell transformed short stories into novels

  7)   created a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline of their own novel

  8)   written the first 40 pages of their novel

  9)   practiced revision as part of their writing process

 10)  practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant



Nature Writing

This course is an introduction to the poetics and politics of nature writing. The goals of the course are for students to:

 

  1)  read many different kinds of nature writing

  2)  think about these works critically

  3)  write their own prose about the natural world and have that

        work read and critiqued

  4)  develop a naturalist’s observational skills

  5)  understand that nature writing is inherently a form of political action, a way

       of participating in public discourse about the environment.



Political Fiction Writing

Robert Penn Warren must have forgotten Aristotle’s maxim that “human beings are political animals,” when he insisted that All the King’s Men was not about politics, but about human nature. Politics is an indelible aspect of the human condition, and so characters in fiction often confront political issues, directly or indirectly, which means their authors must do the same.

This advanced creative writing course will examine how authors have treated political themes such as the state of nature and civil society, individual rights, justice, human freedom and equality, and democratic self-government. Students will explore how authors have employed craft techniques to translate these abstract concepts into human drama while simultaneously using fiction as a means to pressure the state and provoke political action among readers.

By the end of the course, students will have:

1)   defined political behavior

2)   defined propaganda

3)   learned the role politics may play in fiction (and vice versa) by examining how authors have reflected on political questions and themes and incorporated these into their fiction

4)   learned which craft techniques have allowed American writers to successfully address political questions in their fiction and still produce art rather than propaganda

5)   learned how political context (freedom vs. repression) affects craft by contrasting American fiction with novels written under dictatorships

6)   practiced writing political fiction where the exploration of the human condition remains paramount, i.e. fiction that confronts political issues or themes without becoming a rant, a polemic, or propaganda.



Graphic Novel Writing

When medieval scribes created books by hand, text and images existed together on the page, intimately woven together. For hundreds of years when Europeans opened a book this was how they experienced a story — through both the text and image of illuminated manuscripts. Today’s the art form has many names: sequential art, narrative art, visual narratives, comic strips, graphic novels, or simply, comics.

 

This course is a hybrid class merging elements of a literature course with a workshop. Students will learn the history of comics’ emergence and evolution through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the terminology of comics, the grammar of visual storytelling and its connection to the language of film, the various comic industry standards for scriptwriting (loose or detailed) and story structure (stand-alone stories, chapters in serialized stories, and full-length graphic novels), and the skills for reading comics critically.

 

Students will take an existing work of fiction or memoir completed in a previous course, translate it into the comics medium, and complete a polished graphic narrative of at least 22 pages (the typical length of a comic issue or graphic novel chapter).