EGL 20 W — Sentence by Sentence: Creating Your Style
In fiction and nonfiction narrative, what grabs readers’ and editors’ attention is style. We may have a gripping story to tell, but if our prose lacks authority, clarity, and a strong voice, it is apt to be overlooked. In this course, we will develop our unique prose styles, with the aim of drawing readers deeply into our stories. We will write a variety of short exercises to experiment with language as sound, the use of rhetorical tropes, and modes of narration (descriptive, internal, summary, and scene). Students will select authors to imitate in short exercises, to internalize the lessons that we learn from these authors’ stylistic choices. We will write and workshop short scenes to develop our unique prose styles, employing lessons about craft to create specific dramatic effects. We will learn from the work of masters like James Joyce, John Barth, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, and Gertrude Stein, and read about developing our styles in essays by Raymond Queneau, Francine Prose, John Gardner, and others, all with special attention to tone and point of view. Additionally, students may choose an author to study, imitate, and discuss throughout the course.
This is the fourth course of the four-quarter sequence “The Craft of Creative Writing: The Dramatic Toolkit.” The four courses will focus on Scene (Fall 2017), Dialogue (Winter 2018), Plot (Spring 2018), and Style (Summer 2018). 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.
Thomas McNeely, Former Jones Lecturer and Stegner Fellow, StanfordThomas McNeely’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and other magazines and anthologies. His work has been short-listed for The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, and the Pushcart Prize. In 2008, he received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Prose. His first novel, Ghost Horse, was published in 2014. McNeely received an MFA from Emerson College.
Textbooks for this course:
(Required) Francine Prose, Reading Like A Writer (ISBN 978-0060777050)
(Required) John Gardner, The Art of Fiction (ISBN 978-0679734031)
(Required) Raymond Quineau, Exercises in Style, New Directions (ISBN 978-0811220354)