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FICT 38 W — The Past Is Never Past: Writing History-Based Fiction

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Sep 1
Drop Deadline: Jul 4
Units: 3
Tuition: $850
Instructor(s): Deborah Johnson
Limit: 17
Jun 26—Sep 1
10 weeks
Drop By
Jul 4
3 Units
Deborah Johnson
The past may be a foreign country, but it is a country we all love to visit. Recent bestselling novels have found their stories in World War II, pre-civil rights Mississippi, and the Court of Henry VIII. In other words, the historical novel is reaching new heights—and audiences.

In this hands-on course, you will plot and begin writing a historical novel of your own. Our approach will be systematic. First, we will look at what constitutes great work, examining books as varied as Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress to see how they successfully handle plot, theme, place, and characterization. We will discuss what makes these novels work and why they remain so pressingly relevant to our time. We will employ research and plotting techniques to simultaneously begin writing the first chapter of our novel. Finally, we will share our chapters in workshop to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. By the end of the course, you will have completed a chapter of ten to twenty-five pages and have a foundation for the longer work.

This course is appropriate both for those who are just getting started and those who have been working on an idea that they want to bring to life.

Although the time commitment for an online writing course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to gain substantial benefit from the course.

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 an editor, a broadcaster at Vatican Radio, and director of the Colom Foundation in Columbus, Mississippi.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (ISBN 978-0679745204)
(Required) Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (ISBN 978-0743451796)
(Required) Elizabeth George, Write Away (ISBN 978-0006050447)