MFA in Creative Writing - Sample Workshops and Panel Discussions
Transfictionals: Writing Fiction from an Opposite Sex Point of View
We tend to follow the old saw that says writers should write about what they know. This includes creating narrators like themselves, from the same socio-economic background, the same time and place, and even the same gender. However, writers soon find that this can be artistically stifling and that it's sometimes a good idea to write from the opposite sex point of view. Why do writers make such a choice? And when they do, what are the advantages and pitfalls, and how does a writer pull it off so that the narrator is a credible creation, a living, breathing character? The class will explore this issue through lecture and discussion, and by examining a short story and a novel. The class will also do a short writing activity.
Michael C. White, The Blind Side of the Heart
Before and After (read those sections by Ben or read the entire novel if possible)
Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Uses of Dialogue: A Character is What He Speaks
When developing characters, writers are told to follow the old dictum, "show, don't tell." That is, we need to show our characters in action, defining them by what they do. One of the best ways to accomplish this "showing" is through successful dialogue. When used correctly, dialogue is a very effective and economical means not only to define character but to show relationships between characters. It is also one of the best ways to develop conflict. I would also argue that it is one of the best ways for an author to get to understand his or her own characters. Finally, it's often a good way to establish place and setting. In this seminar we will look at how dialogue is used in two stories, one by Hemingway and one by Richard Ford. We will discuss what dialogue accomplishes for each story. At the end of the seminar there will be a dialogue writing activity to help us practice what we've learned.
Richard Ford, "Sweethearts" from Rock Springs
Ernest Hemingway, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"
The Door That Opens: Writing a Good Ending to Your Story
One of the hardest but certainly one of the most important parts of any story is the ending. Updike said that he wanted the end of a story to give him the "sensation of a completed statement." He also compared a good ending to a room with many "apparent choices of exits but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens." How does the author create that right door of exit for his story? What are the factors that must be considered? This workshop will discuss and analyze the endings of one short story and one novel, and then I will ask you to come up with the criteria for writing the ending to a published story whose end has been left off.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
Clint McCown, "War Memorials"
Other Fiction Seminar Topics
- Narrative and Film
- Converting Fiction to Screenplay
- The Importance of Place
- Writing the Novel as Interconnected Stories
Sample Creative Non-fiction Seminar Topics
- Verisimilitude For Nonfiction Writers
- Converting Childhood Trauma Into Creative Nonfiction
- Using Humor in Nonfiction
- Poetic Form and Meter
- In Defense of the Personal Voice in Poetry
- Philosophy and Poetry
- Using Rhyme in Contemporary Poetry
- Writing the Prose Poem
- Editing the Literary Magazine
- Submission Guidelines for Writers
- The Publishing World
- Agents' Seminar
- Editors Seminar
- How to Revise for Publication
- Writing for Social Change