First-Year Studies: Coming of Age and Going Beyond—Fiction Workshop

FYS

This is a yearlong foray into the writing of prose fiction. Emergence into adulthood, the journey out of childhood, the formation of self—there is no shortage of writers that have explored this terrain. Think of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, James Baldwin, Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth. What is the self, and how is it shaped? By place, family, health, class? Is the self shaped by circumstance; and, if so, how does the self exceed or escape circumstance? The coming-of-age story explores these questions and will be our jumping off point for learning the craft of fiction. We will begin with the landscape of childhood—the complex fictions we heard, saw, and felt around us—and how, as writers, we leap from the “actual” to the artifice of fiction. What, then, is a story? How do we find the stories that we need to tell and then tell in a voice of our own making? What are the strategies of short fiction? In our year together, we will begin by gathering the tools of fiction—character, scene, narration, dialogue, place, time, situation—and seeing how these gather, twist, and shape into necessary fictions. We will read a wide variety of authors—not as students of literature but as fiction writers breaking it down to understand how the story was made. Students will be writing every day, completing weekly writing assignments and working on longer stories and revisions. This course in the art of fiction will also be a course in necessity, wonder, and reverence—which are, finally, what generate great fiction.