FICT 77 — Electric Story and Novel Openings: Captivating Your Readers from the Start
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 22—Dec 1
Time: 6:30—9:20 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 24
Instructor(s): Ron Nyren
Class Recording Available: Yes
“In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West invites readers in with mystery and an authoritative voice. Alice Munro’s short story “Child’s Play” has a simple but ominous opening: “I suppose there was talk in our house, afterward.” The opening pages of a short story or novel bring characters to life, entice the reader, and illuminate the story’s core themes and struggles. In this course, we will consider how to balance mystery with clarity, captivate readers with vivid sensory imagery, unlock the dramatic possibilities of voice and point of view, and deftly mix scene and backstory. For guidance, we will examine narrative strategies in novel and short story openings by such writers as Hamid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Michael Chabon, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ottessa Moshfegh. In-class exercises will help you create or revise your own opening to lead readers to the story’s heart. You will have the opportunity to turn in a 5,000-word story or novel beginning for workshopping. By the end of the course, you will have a game plan for further developing your opening and using it as a springboard for writing or revising.
Ron Nyren’s novel The Book of Lost Light received Black Lawrence Press’s Big Moose Prize and was the 2020 Langum Prize finalist. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. He is a co-author, with Sarah Stone, of Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers. Nyren received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan.
Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford
Textbooks for this course:
(Required) Anthony Doerr, The Best American Short Stories 2019 (ISBN 9781328484246)