Visible and Invisible Ink: How Fiction Writing Happens

Open—Spring

Successful fiction writing is a pleasure that requires work and an educated patience. Using as our basic text the stories that students themselves write, we will seek to show how each story, as it unfolds, provides clues—in its language, narrative tendencies, distribution of emphases, etc.—to the solution of its own creative problems. We will explore questions such as: What are the story’s intentions? How close does the writer come to realizing them? What shifts in approach might better serve both intentions and materials? What is—or should be—in any given piece of work the interplay of theme, language, and form? We will look at the links between the answers to these questions and the writer’s evolving voice. Discussion and analysis of student work will be supplemented by consideration of published short stories by writers such as Tim O’Brien, Jhumpa Lahiri, ZZ Packer, Rick Moody, Junot Diaz, Katherine Anne Porter, James Thurber, and Truman Capote. Exercises—which can serve as springboards for longer works—will be assigned weekly. Designed to provide opportunities for free writing and to increase students’ facility with technique, the exercises will be based on the readings and on values and issues emerging from students’ work.