Essentials for the Fiction Writer Series
Essentials for the Fiction Writer is a series of original, high-level craft talks, given at the Westport Writers’ Workshop by Suzanne R. Hoover, Ph.D. over a period of several years, beginning in 2009. Talks range in length from 60 to 90 minutes. Each addresses the featured issue in great technical depth and detail, with many examples. It also examines the featured issue in a context of contemporary literary practice.
Always fresh and practical, Essentials for the Fiction Writer talks go deeper, and range more widely, than other available texts or handbooks on fiction writing. Essentials talks put new ideas in your head, and better tools in your hand. Each topics can, of course, be studied separately. However as a series, they build on one another, to give you the best overall foundation for imaginative writing. Suzanne R. Hoover, Ph.D. is a master teacher of fiction writing craft.
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- CD #1: Structuring Your Story
Stories are experienced by the reader as developing in time, like music. “Structure” is the core issue in fiction. It refers to the way we organize and present our story in time.This workshop goes deeply into the process of creating a strong structure in fiction, and shows how structure can enhance your story’s dramatic energy. Suzanne looks at a wide range of factors, including: the dynamic relationship between character and plot; the use of setups and payoffs (anticipations and fulfillments) over time; story development; the means of creating powerful, escalating conflict; ironic reversals that add complexity and forestall closure; and the requirements of a good outcome (or ending). This workshop enables you to learn a process for creating structure that is flexible and freeing, not mechanical or prescriptive. You will gain new confidence in your ability to make the most crucial choices a fiction writer needs to make.
- CD #2: Developing Your Story
“Development” implies a concept of change towards further complexity, that belongs originally to growing things. In storytelling development is typically about: 1) elaborating a resonant world; 2) interestingly thickening the plot; and 3) simultaneously raising the stakes, so that the protagonist will have increasingly more to lose.Ideally, development will also offer emotional variety and pacing, fulfilling the reader’s desire that the story proceed at the perfect, tantalizing speed–neither too slow nor not too fast–and provide a way to prolong the pleasure of reading. This workshop explores some of the most effective ways to elaborate and deepen and prolong your story. It is targeted especially for the novel writer, although key aspects will be applicable to short story writers as well.
- CD #3: The Short Story
Both the short story and the novel are highly elastic forms, famously difficult to define. But there are clear differences between them, and they do require some different skills of us as writers.This workshop penetrates “short story-ness” as deeply as possible, and points out techniques for realizing one’s ideas in this potentially magical form.
- CD #4: Character Creation: Giving the Kiss of Life
Writers are required to sculpt our characters with words. Call it “the Michelangelo Challenge”: to make a fully-differentiated, articulated, rounded character emerge from a square block of stone–already in movement.This workshop discusses the most effective techniques for that project, and notes some crucial differences in treatment, between a story’s primary and secondary characters. We also explore the mysterious relationship between character and plot.
- CD #5: Point of View: Who Lives the Story and Who Tells It
You have a character whose story you want to tell. But as soon as you begin to write, you find that you must make some critical and momentous choices:
- Through whose lens or filter will the reader receive your narrative?
- First person or third person?
- Will you use just one point of view, or more than one?
- Will your story have an identifiable narrator?
- If so, will that narrator be an active participant?
- Will the narrator be reliable?
….. And so on.
This workshop explores these options and their variants-some of them little used, and yet surprisingly powerful. And most important, it articulates the deeper thematic consequences of each point of view choice: what it implies about the scope and limits of our knowledge.
- CD #6: Irony: Twists, Turns and Reversals
Stories need irony: twists, turns and reversals that have the power to alter the way our characters see themselves and their world. We can fulfill this need with large, dramatic surprises–or we can do it more subtly, baking different kinds and degrees of irony into the substance of our fictional world.This workshop will offer a rare, close look at how irony works, its fundamental importance to narrative, and how to use it in your own novel or short story.
- CD #7: Beginnings
All stories begin before they begin. The question is, where to start the telling–the choice is all-important. This workshop will explore the fascinating range of choices, and what they entail.