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FICT 71 W — Writing Short Fiction: The Devil's in the Details

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Sep 1
Refund Deadline: Jun 29
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Jack Livings
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jun 26—Sep 1
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 29
3 Units
Jack Livings
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
A good short story is constructed with the precision of a Swiss watch. Any element that doesn’t contribute to the narrative’s development is usually excised. But when it comes to details, how do we know what to keep and what to cut? Do we tell the reader that the protagonist has brown eyes? Do we note that there’s a breeze whipping across the field of grass? In this course, we will focus on the importance of specificity in writing details, but also in other aspects of short fiction, from characterization to dialogue, and we’ll examine various motifs that make use of careful detail work to advance narrative. In the process, we’ll learn how to avoid “abject naturalism,” a phrase Frank Conroy used to describe the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink method of loading details into a story with no guiding principle. Through weekly exercises, students will practice writing with specificity that illuminates character and moves the narrative forward with knife-like precision. For guidance, we will read stories and selections from Edward P. Jones, Franz Kafka, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Aleksandar Hemon, among others. By the end of the course, students will have written and workshopped one carefully detailed story.

Some experience writing short fiction is useful but not required.

Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Jack Livings is the author of the novel The Blizzard Party and the story collection The Dog, which received the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and the Rome Prize in Literature. His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. Livings is a former contributing editor at The Paris Review. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) eds. Amy Tan, Katrina Kenison, The Best American Short Stories 1999 (ISBN 978-0395926840)