Description of Class
How to best structure a novel rivals Point of View as the most important choice a writer makes (and structure and POV are often related, as we will explore). A writer could take the same series of events that create plot, and come up with several very different books depending on how they choose to structure said series of events. Structure is function. The choice of how we structure our novels is as important as what the novel is about.
This six-week course, taught by Rob Roberge (Liar, The Cost of Living among others), will focus both on presentations of several options of structure as examples of the options a writer has (we’ll look at over 25 different examples of different structural choices in novels). These are all structures we can use in the development of our novels. There will be examples of each structure and how it works for the novel we are discussing at that time. We’ll always be looking at what the structure offers the writer—and what limitations it contains. There is opportunity and obstacle in any choice a writer makes.
The class will cover these examples, and will also be a novel workshop where writers will share an excerpt of their novels. These will be read (outside of class) and critiqued by the entire group. We will focus on the chosen structure of these novel excerpts, as well as giving a general critique to the writer. Students will be expected to be working at an advanced level for this course.
Note: the number of students will dictate the week that we begin discussing student work. It may start as early as the first or second week.
Week 1: A brief discussion about the examples of structure we’ll be looking at in more depth over the six weeks. And a more specific look at a few examples—starting with the dominant/most common structures. We’ll cover the classic chronological beginning/middle/end form and the conflict/crisis/ resolution narrative, seeing what these options offer us. Also, again, depending on the size of the class, we may start workshopping from the start.
Week 2: More complex forms, including non-chronological structure and an exploration of how POV affects the structure in a book. Workshop/critiques of each other’s work and looking at where it places itself among the many options for structure. The workshopped pieces (every one of them) will suggest the number of structures we will analyze.
Week 3: Epistolary structure, and several structures that sprang from the form—including the diary form and the confessional form. We’ll look at how and why the epistolary form began, and how it’s evolved. Workshop.
Week 4: The many variations on the multiple structure form—i.e., novels that use different structure in different sections of the novel. Also, we’ll look at many different ways to structure a duel point of view novel, and the multiple POV novel. Workshop.
Week 5: The geographically centered novel. The novel-in-stories form. And the prose poem structure. Workshop.
Week 6: Third person framed by first person. The meta-fiction form. The manipulation of time form. We’ll also cover any forms/structures we haven’t explored in enough depth over the course of the class. Workshop.
Time permitting, we will have short in-class writing prompts that focus on working in different structures.Top