Zoetrope 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.
The premium Zoetrope fiction classes are done in collaboration with Zoetrope: All-Story, one of the world’s most prominent literary magazines. Founded in 1997 by Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope: All-Story has received every major story award, including the National Magazine Award for Fiction, while publishing today’s most promising and significant writers.
The premium Zoetrope Fiction classes are Gotham online classes with a few bonus features:
- A one-year subscription to Zoetrope: All-Story, a value of $50 for the U.S., $65 for Canada/Mexico, and $99 for everywhere else.
- A chance to submit a short story to Zoetrope: All-Story that skips the slush pile and gets careful consideration for publication in the magazine. (Yes, students have been published in Zoetrope. There is, however, no guarantee that any student story will be accepted, and the magazine is extremely selective.)
- A weeklong question-and-answer session at the end of the course with Zoetrope: All-Story’s editor, Michael Ray
You might also consider Gotham’s regular Short Fiction II classes.
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.
In this course, you get an MFA quality instructor and a very talented peer cohort.
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)
Gotham has two separate tracks for Zoetrope 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.
Zoetrope Editor: A visit with Michael Ray, editor of Zoetrope: All-Story
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.
Zoetrope Editor: A visit with Michael Ray, editor of Zoetrope: All-Story
Note: Content may vary among individual classes.
Michael Backus is the author of the novels The Vanishing Point (Cactus Moon Books) and the chapbook Coney on the Moon (Redbird Chapbooks). His short stories and nonfiction have appeared in One Story, Okey Panky, Channel, Parhelion Literary Review, Jellyfish Review, Cleaver, Digging Through the Fat, Oyster River Pages, Prime Number, and Exquisite Corpse. He has taught at Columbia College and Marymount Manhattan College. He holds a BA from Purdue University and an MFA from Columbia College.Read more
is the author of the novels The Vanishing Point (Cactus Moon Books) and the chapbook Coney on the Moon (Redbird Chapbooks). His short stories and nonfiction have appeared in One Story, Okey Panky, Channel, Parhelion Literary Review, Jellyfish Review, Cleaver, Digging Through the Fat, Oyster River Pages, Prime Number, and Exquisite Corpse. He has taught at Columbia College and Marymount Manhattan College. He holds a BA from Purdue University and an MFA from Columbia College.