fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Summer Quarter

Summer Quarter Underway
Late-Start Classes
Still Available
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Creative Writing

FICT 64 W — Crafting Unforgettable Short Stories

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Sep 1
Drop Deadline: Jul 4
Units: 3
Tuition: $850
Instructor(s): Rachel Smith
Limit: 17
Jun 26—Sep 1
10 weeks
Drop By
Jul 4
3 Units
Rachel Smith
"Leave out all the parts readers skip,” said the writer Elmore Leonard. “Hold the reader’s attention,” says Margaret Atwood. But how do we refine our instincts for what will engage a reader? In this course, we will consider what distinguishes stories that captivate their readers, and you will practice enacting those features in your own writing. We will ask questions including: How do we keep the writing interesting while also getting the story to cohere as a whole? Are we to exile from our stores of material anything that is not obviously suspenseful or exciting? How are we to know whether to cut a part of a story that isn’t working or try to make it better? In this course, we will read a variety of short stories, some with high action—blazing house fires, sudden death, drug-addled midnight joyrides—and some with quiet, unassuming renderings of day-to-day life. At these poles and in between, we will investigate what makes the writing interesting. At the same time, we will work on writing and revision exercises designed to make our writing more vibrant and engaging. Each student will complete a short story and have it workshopped. Whether you’re an experienced fiction writer or are just starting to try your hand at stories, you will finish the course with a sharpened sense of what makes readers want to turn the page.

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.

Rachel Smith, Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Rachel Smith’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Rumpus, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has taught at Stanford and the University of Mississippi, where she received an MFA in creative writing, as well as at the Cambridge International Centre in Taizhou, China. Smith is a former William Chace Lecturer in Continuing Studies.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen Koch, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop (ISBN 978-0375755583)