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EGL 65 WB — Scene by Scene: The Building Blocks of Story

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 9
Drop Deadline: Oct 4
Unit(s): 3 Units
Tuition: $850
Limit: 17
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving
Sep 26—Dec 9
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 4
3 Units
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving
Do you have an idea for a novel or a work of creative nonfiction, but feel overwhelmed by how to go about the task of writing your story? This course will demystify the art of storytelling by teaching you how to write scenes—the basic building blocks of all stories, whether real or imagined. You’ll end up learning everything you need to know about writing a novel or a work of creative nonfiction, since a great scene contains all the elements of a great story. Each week we will isolate one key element of the craft of storytelling, looking at it up close within the context of a particular scene from a published novel or work of nonfiction. We will also practice that week’s skill in a scene-writing assignment. Among other things, you’ll learn how to create compelling and complex characters and show their emotions; write realistic and dynamic dialogue laden with subtext; build each scene toward a focal point or climax; and find the beginning and ending of your scenes. In the final weeks of the class, we will learn how to string scenes together to create a dramatic arc, and each student will create a short story, novel chapter, or work of creative nonfiction that will be workshopped by the group as a whole. Once you understand how stories are built scene by scene, writing a book yourself will seem much more achievable. This course is appropriate for writers of all levels.

Although the time commitment for this course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to participate at a substantial level.

This is the first course of the four-quarter sequence "The Craft of Creative Writing: The Essential Tools." The four courses will focus on Scene (Fall 2016), Character (Winter 2017), Description (Spring 2017), and The Sentence (Summer 2017). These courses are less workshop-oriented than most Continuing Studies Creative Writing courses, instead devoting each quarter to an intensive and wide-ranging practicum in a key question of craft. The purpose of these courses is to give students a more comprehensive treatment of craft issues than might be found in other courses. While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Deborah Johnson, Author

Deborah Johnson’s latest novel is The Secret of Magic, which received the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Her previous novel, The Air Between Us, received the Mississippi Library Association Award for Fiction. She has been a translator and editor, a broadcaster at Vatican Radio, and director of the Colom Foundation in Columbus, Mississippi.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Jennifer Egan, The Keep (ISBN 1400079748)
(Recommended) Williford and Martone, Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present (ISBN 1416531742)
(Required) Tom Perrotta, Little Children (ISBN 0312315732)
(Required) Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (ISBN 0812981227)
(Recommended) Brett Anthony Johnston, Naming the World (ISBN Naming the World)