Class Title: If I Had a Hammer: How to Build a Short Story from the Ground Up
Instructor: Andrea Simon
Class Term: March 19-April 23, 2018
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Many consider the short story the most highly developed and pure fictional art form. Though it is a comparatively recent genre, the often-underappreciated modern short story shares the major narrative elements of longer fiction, such as character development, setting, point of view, conflict, and plot. It requires a compelling and consistent voice, a seamless pace, and strict adherence to revision.
However, the short story must show a lot in a little space, reducing the verbiage to its essence and showing a sculptor's respect for the telling detail. Annie Proulx says, "The short story writer is to the novelist as a cabinetmaker is to a house carpenter." In this microcosmic universe, as Alice Munro says, "everything the story tells moves the reader in such a way that you feel you are a different person when you finish." This course provides you with the building blocks of this compressed fictional art form, allowing you to experiment with various styles, feel confident in the craft techniques, receive constructive criticism in a supportive environment, and create a sturdy foundation for the future.
Each class will be devoted to a craft element or form of the short story. Assignments will correspond to that topic. Weekly assignments will be aided by prompts and exercises, plus supportive materials. Assignments will be due at the end of the week. You will be responsible for critiquing at least one other student. By the end of the course, you will create a revised, finished short story based on one of your assignments.
At the end of this class, students will be able to:
- Feel knowledgeable about the scope and structure of the short story.
- Create various forms of the short story: from flash fiction to a character sketch to a revised and completed longer short story.
- Know how to criticize and accept criticism.
- Proofread and edit your stories, as well as others.
- Create stories that are publishable.
Instruction/Communication Method: I will deliver instructional materials, including assignments and readings, via Yahoo Group, supplemented by conference calls and individual calls. Students will post work on Yahoo Group and will be critiqued by me and at least another student.
- Unit 1: Flash Fiction. Craft handouts: Elements of Fiction, Concrete Language, Setting Worksheet, Freewriting, Critiquing.
- Unit 2: Character Sketch. Character Worksheet. Handouts: Dialogue, Quotations.
- Unit 3: Point of View. Voice, Tone, Style.
- Unit 4: Short Story. Plot and Structure (tension/conflict/resolution, pacing).
- Unit 5: Revised Short Story. Editing, Proofreading Checklist.
Student Skills, Equipment, and Time Required
Computer skills: Word, Track Changes (editing), Yahoo Group. Ongoing e-mail support.
Time Commitment: 1-2 hours to read and digest posted materials; 2-4 hours to write story each week, depending on ability.
Tuition/Fees for this course
SCN members: $160. Non-SCN members: $200.
Andrea Simon is the author of the historical novel, Esfir is Alive, the memoir Bashert: A Granddaughter's Holocaust Quest, as well as several published stories and essays. She is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the winner of the Ernest Hemingway First Novel Contest, two Dortort Creative Writing Awards, the Stark Short Fiction Prize, the Short Story Society Award, and the Authors in the Park Short Story Writing Contest. Esfir is Alive was a finalist in the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award and won a 2017 Moonbeam Children's Book Award. Andrea holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York where she has taught writing. She is also an accomplished photographer, and lives in New York City. Visit her website and her art website.