Creative Writing: Introduction to Fiction

English 1510
Section 04
Jeffrey Wasserboehr
Lafferre E3511

Stories – all of the good ones, anyway – are portable magic.... Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”  –Stephen King

As described above by one of our modern-day masters, writing fiction should come not from any place of superficiality; rather it should tap into deep human truths. In this course, we will read and write short works of fiction. What’s often called “creative writing” as it pertains to fiction, is an expansive genre that includes realist, surrealist, absurdist, quest/adventure, historical, fantasy, horror/gothic/romance, mystery, auto, flash, and science fiction (and others). We’ll be exploring several of these so-called subgenres in class. As we plumb through short stories and craft our own creative short stories, we’ll engage with the tools and practices that authors employ to create compelling stories: narrative and dialogue techniques to develop dynamic characters, settings that breathe, internal and external weather, and the art of scene-making through tension and conflict. Writers must also cultivate an individual voice and style, so we’ll be working together to support each other’s efforts in effectively expressing the visions that are uniquely yours. Discussions will play a significant role in our reflections about the readings and writing we complete this semester.

In this course, we will read, analyze, and think and write about this art form. In particular, we will look at stories from the Best American series and attempt to make sense of the “quality” of these stories based on our reading experiences and critical thoughts regarding craft and the art of storytelling (at the end of the semester, you’ll be writing a book review for this book to be posted on Goodreads). We’ll also look at some of the more well-recognized short stories examined in James Woods’s book How Fiction Works, including James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Anton Chekov’s “The Lady with the Dog,” and others.

You should keep a notebook this semester to record daily observations, thoughts and ideas, and interesting overheard conversations, etc. As Lorraine Hansberry, author of Raisin in the Sun, wrote, “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  This course requires you to do just that.