Description of Class
Successful writers—William Faulkner, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Johnson, D.H. Lawrence, Toni Morrison, Vladimir Nabokov—and many others speak strongly of the writer’s need to read. Writers learn from a deep involvement in the work of other writers. For the developing writer especially, reading and reflecting on the works of published authors is as much about the developing writer’s own work as it is about the published works being examined.
This four-week course, taught by Eric Charles May (Bedrock Faith) is designed for prose writers—fiction or creative nonfiction—to examine techniques that will enable their potentially strong content to come through with its fullest impact, and to reflect upon questions of process that are crucial to the needs of creative writers.
Course attendees will engage in responding to literature as writers, rather than as literary critics, to help bridge the gap between literary models and the developing writer’s need for problem solving strategies.
Specific issues the class will address include:
- The use of prose forms such as scene, model tellings, stylistic parody, and structural parody
- Character Types—the passive character, the aggressive character, the opposite character
- Effective beginnings, the writer as problem solver, point of view
- The writing processes of published authors. What they read and how they responded to what they read. Their writing processes—first drafts, research, revisions.
- The transformation of nonfiction into fiction.
What you’ll write:
- Weekly journal responses to assigned reading, some done in-class, some done outside of class
- Several writing assignments based on some of the above prose forms
What you’ll read:
In addition to the author’s mentioned above, the course will include examination of writers Jill Ciment, Charles Dickens, Theodore Dreiser, Louse Erdrich, Dennis Lehane, David Lida, Ann Petry, and others. Readings will not only include writers’ published fiction and/or nonfiction, but also writers’ diaries, notebooks, letters, autobiographies, and essays on writing.
Week 1: Good Readers and Good Writing. We’ll read aloud some examples of published literature, some successful writers’ responses to literature, have a writers’-based literature discussion, and take a stab at writing some writerly responses of our own.
Week 2: Writerly Issues. We’ll take turns reading aloud our responses to literature assigned for home reading from Week 1. Read examples and discuss such writerly issues as Point of View, Scene, Voice, types of characters; how these things can work in our own writing, and experiment with some in-session writing of those forms.
Week 3: Open Sesame. What prose forms do successful writers use in their opening pages? We’ll read and discuss fiction and nonfiction examples, and try experimenting with writing some possible story openings of our own.
Week 4: Hair-Triggers. One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of hair-trigger is: “immediately responsive to the slightest stimulus.” We’ll read some triggers of successful writers that will include—dreams, dramatic life events, neighborhood gossip, offhand remarks, and of course responses to literature—and how those triggers got the writers to scene and/or story. Then we’ll experiment—through discussion and in-class journal writing—with some of our own possible hair-triggers that might carry vivid imagery that can lead to story.
Each week will involve some in-session writing time. Some reading between classes will be assigned, along with journal responses on your part to the reading. I’ll give some optional additional writing assignments, which you may choose to do during our four-week time together, or at some other time.
While we will be doing journal responses to what we read and will also be dealing with memory and past-life events, the point of the course is not to push anyone into material they don’t want to deal with. What’s read from your journal responses will only be what you choose to share.
Ideally, by the end of the course, you’ll have some strong starts from which to launch your future writing efforts, and effective approaches to get the most bang for your writing buck from your continued reading of literature.
Feedback from me will be in written form—either hard copy or email—whatever you prefer.
The class will not be using the peer-critiquing of each other’s writing.Top