English 2010—Creative Writing: Fiction
Brian Kiteley—Fall 2010
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ● Classroom: SH480 ● Office: Sturm Hall 487C ● Class hours: T,Th 4-5:50 ● Phone: 1-2898 ● Office hours: T,Th 1:30-3
PREREQUISITE: English 1000 (the introductory creative writing workshop) or CREX 1110 (The Writer's Voice)
Texts: Brian Kiteley, The 3 A.M. Epiphany; Grace Paley, Collected Stories; Alice Munro, Selected Stories.
Course due dates
In this course we will study the sources of fiction. Where does it come from? Why do you write the sorts of things you write? Who are you and how does that matter to your fiction? You will do fiction exercises for the first half of the class, looking for a longer story from these fragments, which you’ll then write.
Attendance. Participation in this class is crucial to your success. I expect you to attend regularly and fully participate in class activities (especially in reviewing the work of your classmates). You are allowed a total of two absences for any reason during the quarter. Each absence after that second absence will lower your course grade by one letter grade. If you must miss a class, email me (email@example.com) in advance. If you miss four classes, you will fail the class. This class depends on everyone being present, thoughtful, and talkative. If you must miss class, it is your responsibility to track down the material that was handed out, and, if you were due to hand out a story, it is also your responsibility to make sure everyone in the class receives copies of your fiction. Hand in hard copies of your exercises and stories the class before we are to discuss the work. If you do not bring your copies to class that day your fiction may not be discussed in class the next class. I expect paper copies of every story and exercise. Do not email attachments of your fiction to us.
The Bare Bones. You will write six short exercises from The 3 A.M. Epiphany, which the class will help you turn into a longer story (we will choose parts of two or three of the exercises from the first eight you do, and then we will send you home to reshape this raw material into a larger piece). You will also write critiques of your classmates’ fiction. The exercises are demanding and force writers to reorganize their thinking about how they make fiction. Picasso said, "Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention. It obliges you to make a kind of progress that you can't even imagine in advance." Alice LaPlante in The Making of a Story observes: "Contrary to what you might think, absolute freedom isn't always the most beneficial to creativity. Instead, what psychologists and scientists are finding is that constraints, or limits in choices, are often more conducive to creativity than the blank page (or empty computer screen)." The material you put into the exercises is your own; the restraints, frames, and word-lengths are mine. When I assign a group of exercises for you to do, you may do any exercises in the book that you wish (as well as some new ones I'll hand out). After we've discussed your first set of exercises I may assign one or two specific exercises for you to do, but most of what you do in this class will derive from your own experience and creative intelligence.
I want you to focus all of your exercises and the story on a limited set of characters and locations. As a class we'll help you decide, from that first set of exercises, which direction we think you should go. We will also try to give you some ideas, after your longer story, what exercises to do to expand or deepen the long story—a fragmentary revision. At the end of this course, you should have generated enough material for several stories, or even the beginning of a novel. When you write the exercises I want you to try not to write a story that is just broken up into bits. Think of the exercises as variations on a form, as a potential story seen from many different angles and points of view, or as possibilities for stories. The reason I don't want you to write a story at first is because I want you to think through the process of finding fictions before you settle into the activity of making a piece of fiction.
We'll talk about how to select exercises (or how to make them up for yourself). If you're stumped, and you can't decide on an exercise from The 3 A.M. Epiphany, try this: go to the website http://www.random.org/ and on the right-hand side of the page you'll find the random number generator. Program the True Random Number Generator to find a random number between 1 and 200. Let this little tool find the exercise for you. Sometimes it's better not to think before writing.
Bring The 3 A.M. Epiphany to the first class and every other class.
You'll write six two-page exercises (see The 3 A.M. Epiphany) during the term.
You will write one 7- to 10-page story, which will be drawn from some of the exercises you will have written during the term.
You will write two formal typewritten 200-word critiques of your classmates’ work and post them on Blackboard. One critique will be of an exercise not discussed in class and the other of the long story. You'll find great lasting value in these critiques, both your own and your classmates' critiques of your writing. Read the exercises and stories of your classmates twice, once for sense and a second time with pen in hand, looking at language, character animation, style, and structure.
Grades. You will be graded equally on:
Your class participation;
The effort you appear to have put into your exercises;
The imaginative reworking of the exercises into your longer story;
And, most importantly, the critiques of your classmates.
I do not grade on talent. If you participate in discussion, make a good-faith effort to do creative work and inventively listen to advice, read and write about your classmates' work with earnest attention, and appear at nearly all of the class sessions, you will receive an A-. Students who do superlative work in several of these areas will get an A.
9/14 Details, details
9/16 Read (or sincerely skim) The 3 A.M. Epiphany and choose one exercise you’d like to discuss
9/21 Read Grace Paley (Pale Pink Roast, Wants, Debts, The Little Girl, and A Conversation with My Father) and Alice Munro
(Walker Brothers Cowboy, Royal Beatings, Wild Swans, and The Beggar Maid)
9/23 1st group (three exercises) (remember, your exercises are due 9/21)
9/28 2nd group (three exercises)
9/30 3rd group (three exercises)
10/5 4th group (three exercises)
10/7 5th group (three exercises)