Description of Class
What makes a novel or memoir—even those about seemingly unremarkable subjects, like family or work—hard to put down, while occasionally even the most promising mystery falls flat?
This five-week course, taught by Charles Finch (The Inheritance), is designed to instruct writers across all genres of prose about the technical keys to creating the kind of suspense that the best authors, from Elena Ferrante to Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and Ian McEwan, seem effortlessly able to create.
Students will create or rework a piece until it attains the kind of momentum that forces a reader to keep turning the pages—the kind of momentum irresistible, not incidentally, to agents and editors.
Week 1: The Tricks. There are a few quick and dirty tricks that can immediately create suspense. We’ll examine a few short examples, and how they draw the reader forward.
Week 2: The Art. Tricks, of course, are not enough. There’s a higher art to suspense—a reason, rooted in character, that people still tear through Pride and Prejudice.
Week 3: Revision. By this point, you will have produced a fairly well-designed short piece of work. Revising it is key to eliminating parts that may slow it down (while emphasizing the importance of maintaining your voice).
Week 4: Construction. Time to build out from your promising opening. Why do some books start well and then trail off? In what ways do some books give us “permission” to stop reading them?
Week 5: Completion. In this final class period, you should have a clear idea of where your project is headed, be it a short story, a memoir, a novel, screenplay, or anything in between. We’ll focus here on how to take it home.
Each week will involve some amount of workshop time, ranging from minor to major; some minor reading between classes will be required.Top