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EGL 319 W — The Gripping Read: Plot and Suspense for Fiction and Nonfiction

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 9
Drop Deadline: Apr 11
Units: 3
Tuition: $850
Instructor(s): Seth Harwood
Limit: 17
Status: Closed
Apr 3—Jun 9
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 11
3 Units
Seth Harwood
In this course, students will focus on writing the kind of clean and gripping prose they’ve loved to read their whole lives. You know the feeling when a sense of reading falls away and you find yourself immersed in a book’s action, tied to the narrator’s struggle, and watching each scene unfold in your mind’s eye? That’s the kind of prose we’ll be working toward creating in this course.

Our first and possibly most surprising lesson will be: You don’t need a fascinating, multi-layered outline or a stellar plot concept to write this way. Instead we’ll start out by looking at how writer and reader connect, and how to build the craft elements necessary to pull readers in and to keep them eagerly turning pages.

In the first half of the course, students will develop their craft through exercises using dialogue, visual action, and creating three-dimensional characters in scenes. We will look at suspense and its evil counterpart— reader confusion—to build stories full of artful and well-managed intrigue. Reading work by such writers as Jhumpa Lahiri, Michael Connelly, Stacey Richter, and Jim Thompson, we will learn from our predecessors and build analytical tools. Then, in the second half of the course, each student will workshop a story or excerpt from a longer piece—fiction or nonfiction—to get feedback from the group. In this manner, a variety of additional lessons will be explored and discussed using student examples. By course’s end, students will have developed a story, novel, or memoir excerpt and have ideas about submitting it for publication.

Although the time commitment for an online writing course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to gain substantial benefit from the course.

Seth Harwood, Author

Seth Harwood’s fifth novel, Everyone Pays, was published in 2016. He is the author of the bestsellers In Broad Daylight and Jack Wakes Up, as well as the novels Young Junius, This Is Life, and numerous stories in literary journals, two story collections, and a Kindle Worlds novella. He received an MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, City College of San Francisco, and Harvard Extension School.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen KIng, On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft (ISBN 978-1439156810)
(Required) Lex Williford, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: 50 North American Stories Since 1970 (ISBN 978-1416532279)