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FICT 98 — Short Story Workshop: Mastering Scene in Short Fiction

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 5
Time: 6:30—9:20 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 5
Units: 3
Tuition: $745
Instructor(s): Ron Nyren
Limit: 21
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
6:30—9:20 pm (PT)
Apr 3—Jun 5
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 5
3 Units
Ron Nyren
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Short fiction writers have only a handful of pages to introduce characters, set up plot, and deliver meaningful transformations or revelations. Scenes are a powerful tool for swiftly bringing readers into the heart of the story, chronicling moments when people commit consequential acts, form or break relationships, gain or lose the upper hand. In early drafts, writers sometimes find that their characters yearn without acting or think instead of speaking. In this course, we will draw on the tools of fiction and playwriting to push our characters into dramatic action that is authentic to who they are and that reveals them in all their complexities.

We will explore how to orchestrate plot, desire, dialogue, interiority, conflict, and setting to shape scenes into a meaningful arc. In-class exercises will help you experiment with applying these craft tools in your own short stories. We will also discuss fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Julie Otsuka, Grace Paley, and others to discover how they build narrative tension and put characters under interesting pressures. Each student will have the opportunity to receive feedback on a story of up to 5,000 words, opening up a sense of the work’s possibilities for transformation. You will come away with strategies for inviting your characters into dynamic entanglements that unveil their hidden vulnerabilities and strengths.

Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Ron Nyren’s novel The Book of Lost Light received Black Lawrence Press’s 2019 Big Moose Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Mississippi Review, and 100 Word Story, and his stories have been shortlisted for the O. Henry Awards and the Pushcart Prize. He is the co-author, with Sarah Stone, of Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers. He received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) John Freeman, ed., The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story (ISBN 978-1984877802)