Short Fiction Writing IIGUIDE TO FICTION COURSES
Short Fiction Writing II is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. The focus is on writing short stories. The prerequisite is Fiction I, or the equivalent; Level II courses work best when students know the fundamentals and have experience with the workshop process. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.
Short stories are brief glimpses into lives, which can be anything from a few paragraphs to several dozen pages—contained enough to read in single sitting. The best short stories drop us off somewhere, soon bringing us home, yet lingering in the mind for a long while.
A key advantage of short fiction is that you can conceive, write, and polish a story in a reasonable amount of time, and there are countless places where you can submit your work, many of which are very open to aspiring writers. This is an ideal form for the earlier stages of a writer’s career, though you may get so hooked you never leave. Here you’ll learn the specialized techniques of writing short fiction and how to market your work.
As Neil Gaiman says: Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and dreams.
I found myself surrounded by others who value good writing as much as I do.
Fiction I encompasses short stories and novels. After Level I, students have a choice of Short Fiction Writing II (focusing on short stories), or Novel II Critique or Novel II First Draft (focusing on novels).
If you’re working on a YA novel, you may take a Fiction/Novel or “genre” course, or you may take a Children’s Book course, where the full spectrum of children’s books will be covered.
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This course helps you sharpen your skills at fiction craft and work toward completion of one or two short stories. Writers often repeat Short Fiction II to continue their projects. Course components:
Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)
New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. Many topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.
Gotham has two separate tracks for Short Fiction II online. They complement each other, and many students take both tracks, but it makes no difference which one is taken first. If you take one track, then enroll again for Short Fiction II, Gotham will make sure you are placed in the other track.
The topics covered in one track (x):
Truth and Lies: Why fiction writers must “lie” (stray from the facts). Tips for making it fictional. The value of bringing “truth” (honesty) to fiction. Tips for finding honesty.
Beginnings: The need for a strong beginning. First sentences. Opening paragraphs. The beginning section.
Real Characters: Making characters seem real. The drive of desire. Contrast within personality. Specific details. Capability of change. Minor characters.
Dialogue Impact: Bringing forth the external with dialogue. Revealing character. Revealing conflict. The value of subtext.
Intriguing POVs: Making point of view intriguing, in first, second, and third person. Altering point of view strategy midstream.
The Essence of Plot: The simple formula underlying most fictional plots. Three types of short story plots—classic, slice of life, passive protagonist.
Emotional Settings: Finding the emotional value of a setting. The “feel” of setting. Character perception of setting. People as setting.
The Sentence: Making every sentence interesting. Choosing the right words. Types of sentences. Sentence structure and rhythm. Sentence progression. Sentence essentials. Sentences merging into paragraphs.
Writers Must Read: What writers gain from reading. How to gain insight and skill through reading as a writer.
In Print: Facts about getting into print. Exploration of literary magazines. How to target literary magazines. Guidelines for sending out work. Responses, rejection, contests. Gaining an edge.
And the topics covered in the other track (y):
Dreaming Up a Story: Creating plot through a “dream" sensibility. Finding “hot spots.” Finding the unexpected. Using actual dreamscapes. Imposing order.
Description Details: Quality over quantity in description. Telling details. Convincing details. Details that stick.
Revealing Characters: The potency of “showing” characters. Revealing layers of characters. Gradual revelation of characters. Playing “fair” with character revelation.
Making Scenes: Choosing scenes. Connecting scenes. Scene dynamics—conflict, dialogue, cinematic direction.
The Storyteller: The value of an engaging narrator. The narrative voice. Techniques for effective narrators in various points of view. Direct address. Narrator and audience.
POV Distance: Point of view review. Psychic distance in point of view. Manipulating the point of view “camera.” Using the distance of time. Using present tense. Handling thoughts.
What’s the Point?: The value of theme. Theme analyzed. Thematic symbols. Hints for discovering theme.
Endings: Finding the effective ending. The “whammy" ending. The “internal change" ending. The “non-ending” ending.
Breaking Free: The flexibility of the short story form. Various ways to break the mold of the conventional short story.
The Process: Wisdom from masters on habits and writing craft.
Note: Content may vary among individual classes.
Dalia Pagani is the author of the novel Mercy Road (Delacorte). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Story, Portsmouth Review, Green Mountains Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Omnificent, and Cruising World. She has taught at Plymouth State University, Lebanon College, and Johnson State College. She holds a BA and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.Read more
Jaime Karnes has published fiction and nonfiction in Granta, Adirondack Review, Opium Magazine, and PopMatters. She is an editor-at-large in fiction at The Utopian. She has taught at Rutgers and Southern New Hampshire University. She holds a BA from the University of Kansas and an MFA in Fiction from Rutgers-Newark University.Read more
Season Harper-Fox has published fiction, poetry, and book reviews in Cream City Review, Rocky Mountain Review of Modern Language and Literature, OnTheBus, and Primavera, and she has served as editorial assistant for Prairie Schooner. She has taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She holds a BA and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.Read more
is the author of the novel Mercy Road (Delacorte). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Story, Portsmouth Review, Green Mountains Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Omnificent, and Cruising World. She has taught at Plymouth State University, Lebanon College, and Johnson State College. She holds a BA and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.
has published fiction and nonfiction in Granta, Adirondack Review, Opium Magazine, and PopMatters. She is an editor-at-large in fiction at The Utopian. She has taught at Rutgers and Southern New Hampshire University. She holds a BA from the University of Kansas and an MFA in Fiction from Rutgers-Newark University.
has published fiction, poetry, and book reviews in Cream City Review, Rocky Mountain Review of Modern Language and Literature, OnTheBus, and Primavera, and she has served as editorial assistant for Prairie Schooner. She has taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She holds a BA and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.