Creative Writing Syllabi


Introduction to Fiction Writing

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

 

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
  8. practiced revision as part of their writing process
  9. learned and practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

Nature Writing

This hybrid course combines a literature class with a writing workshop and introduces students 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

This hybrid course combines a literature class with an advanced writing workshop and explores how political themes are expressed through fiction.

 

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.

Novel Writing

In this advanced creative writing course students study how two authors transformed their short stories into novels and try 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


Graphic Novel Writing

This hybrid course combines a literature class with an advanced writing course where students transform an existing story into a graphic piece.

 

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 script writing (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).