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FICT 146 — Scene Making: The Essence of Storytelling

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Saturdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Jul 23—Jul 30
Time: 10:00 am—12:30 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jul 16
Unit: 0
Grade Restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Tuition: $240
Instructor(s): Ellen Sussman
Limit: 21
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
10:00 am—12:30 pm (PT)
Jul 23—Jul 30
2 days
Refund Date
Jul 16
0 Unit
Grade Restriction
NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Ellen Sussman
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
A dramatic scene takes hold of a reader and insists: Pay attention. Live here. Engage fully. Great scenes make the reader lean into the story, refuse to put down the book, dream the tale we put on the page. We know this; yet developing the images and ideas of our stories into wonderful, fleshed-out, vivid scenes challenges all of us. This course will explore what “show, don’t tell” really means in the books we love—and in our own writing. We will aim to create unforgettable scenes that pull our readers into the story and don’t let go. We will examine all of the elements that go into great scenes: gripping narrative, revealing inner thoughts, sensory detail, pitch-perfect dialogue, great backstory, and flawless prose. Does the setting serve the story? Have we chosen the right point of view? Is there dramatic action that moves the story forward? We will use in-class exercises to explore the many ways in which we can make a scene come alive on the page. Each student will write a scene with no exposition and no interiority and then build on that foundation by layering in interiority, flashback, sensory imagery, and much more. Students will come away with a new set of skills for writing cinematic scenes in fiction.


Ellen Sussman is the author of four novels: A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is also the editor of two anthologies, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. She has taught at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Rutgers.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.