Introduction to Fiction Writing

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

course description

This course is an introduction to the building blocks of writing fiction. It is a hybrid course, combining elements of a literature course with the traditional writing workshop.


Through the study of short stories, students will learn about the various forms fictional works can take, such as  epistolary stories, flash fiction, framed storied, et cetera, the choices made by writers such as point of view and setting, and the techniques of dialog, characterization, narration, and description.


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,” a fundamental part of creative writing instruction, in which students read and respond to each other’s work, addressing aspects of craft for revision and improvement. It will prepare them to participate in more advanced workshops in future courses.

Educational Goals

By the end of the course, students will have:

  • investigated their creative goals and motives for writing fiction
  • reflected upon their reading habits and experiences
  • created a writer's notebook
  • learned the connection between character and plot
  • studied fictional forms such as flash fiction, epistolary fiction, framed stories, et cetera
  • explored how and why authors create different points of view
  • practiced various techniques of psychic distance, narration, description, and writing dialog
  • practiced revision as part of their writing process
  • learned and practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

Required Texts

  • The Art and Craft of Fiction  by Michael Kardos
  •  a hardbound blank sketchbook or notebook of at least 150 pages
  •  a small notebook and pen to keep in your pocket

overview of assignments

Short Assignments

 -  daily writing 

 -  creation of a writer's notebook

 -  story proposals

 -  character interview

 -  LOCK character exercise

 -  written critiques of stories submitted to workshop

 -  participation in every in-class workshop


Artist Autobiography

Students write an autobiography that reflects upon their artistic interests and creative growth — the story of their artistic and creative self, from beginning to end. This is an opportunity to explore their professional and creative goals and to take inventory of themselves. The style may be informal, somewhere between a journal entry and an essay.


Reflection Essay:  Great Writers Are Great Readers

Students investigate and consciously examine what they have read, why they have read these works, how they find new fiction to read, where they get information about new fiction, and reflect upon whether they want to write the kinds of stories they enjoy reading. Students begin by reviewing a comprehensive list of "the greatest novels ever" and highlighting the works they have read and want to read. Next they write a reflection essay on what the exercise revealed about them.


Retyping a Great Novel

Students retype the first 3000 words of a novel or novella they chose in the "Great Writers Are Great Readers" assignment, word-for-word. This is an unconventional assignment, and so to explain its purpose students read “Retyping On the Road” from Uncreative Writing  by Kenneth Goldsmith.


Original Short Story

Students write a single original short story of 12 to 16 pages and turn in 5 drafts over the semester. This simulates the experience of professional writers who work on a single story for many months. The student experiences wild fluctuations about their story — from excited about it to hating it and wanting to abandon it. This assignment teaches students to anticipate these feelings and work past them.


Final Portfolio

Due at the end of the semester, the final portfolio consists of  1) a final draft of their original short story, formatted as if submitting it to a journal for publication,  2) a cover letter and 3) a reflection essay of 3-4 pages that explores the student's writing process over the semester, from the initial invention stages through the final revision.