English 351: Creative Writing: Prose
Instructor: Bryan Fry
Office: Avery 371
Office Hours: MWF 12:00-1:00 p.m.

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                                                                       Course Syllabus

Course Overview:

This is a course in creative writing focusing on short fiction. Ideally, you will have taken English 351 or a similar introductory course in creative writing where you learned about characterization, plot, dialogue, action, image, setting, description, diction, scene, tension, voice, etc. This course will give you opportunities to hone those concepts as well as equip you with a deeper understanding of what is means to write serious fiction. We will discuss the definition of "serious fiction" thoughout the semester. For now, keep in mind that this course is designed for serious students who are willing to read and to write on a daily basis. I will not tolerate romantics or procrastinators or genre writing. If you insist that the best fiction takes place on the planet Zeldron or that vampires and werewolves increase the tension in a love triangle, please drop now. I'm not saying you can't experiment the validity of a fictional world, but it must have its own integrity and its own originality. You must make your readers willing to suspend their disbelief and you must make it new. 

Learning to write requires close, critical reading so this course involves reading the work of professionals to learn the "tricks of the trade." You must be prepared--with book in hand--to discuss these readings in class. In order to prepare for these discussions, you should understand that fiction writing is not an abstract art and that the best writers--the writers we want to emulate--make decisions. They choose to write in first-or third-person, to use past or present tense, to expand or minimize dialogue. They choose sentence styles, diction, methods of characterization, sequencing, etc, etc, etc. They make hundreds of choices. Therefore, when you read a story you should continually ask yourself these two questions: 1) what decisions is the writer making and 2) how do those decisions impact the story. Learn to answer these questions and to pull passages from the text so we can see examples. I call this preparation kindling because it enables the class to build a fire, to establish a meaningful discussion.

You will also read the writing of your peers in preparation for whole-class workshops. To get the most from this course you are required to hand in your workshop pieces on time, attend class consistently, and be prepared to participate honestly and fully.

Required Material:
  • Tom Perrotta, The Best American Short Stories, 2012
  • Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction
  • A Writing Journal
Major Requirements:

Participation (30%):  Each week I will assign you a participation grade that reflects how involved you are in the class. This includes being prepared (bringing your books and writing journals) as well as participating in discussions. During workshop weeks, you must read all workhop pieces and prepare for all workshop discussions. Your participation grade will be the average of your weekly participation grades. Please note: I pay attention to those who come to class prepared and those who do not.

Homework (20%): Sometimes I will ask you to complete a writing prompt from a reading or discussion. Because these prompts are generally "impromptu" and are generated in class, you might want to establish contact with a "go to" partner in case you forget to take notes or have a tendency to miss class.  Please note: All homework must be typed, unless others specified. I will not accept late work.

Workshop (30%):  Each student will prepare two pieces of fiction, a shorter piece (5-8 pages), and a longer piece (10-15 pages) for class workshops. Your workshop grade depends on signing up for workshop and having your work prepared when it is due; this includes making enough copies of your story for the entire class. I will hand out a sign-up sheet with workshop dates early on in the semester to give you time to prepare your work. Please note: You must type your stories for workshop and hand them in on time to complete credit for this assignment.

Portfolio (20%): Revising (or rewriting) is a major part of the writing process; creative writing is no exception. Therefore, I expect to see you progress as a fiction writer in this class. The best way to show me this progression is through your portfolio which you will hand in at the end of the semester. In order for me to see your transformation, you will provide a sample of work along with any rough drafts and a reflection letter. This letter is perhaps the most important part of the portfolio; you will have to explain your revision process, your knowledge of craft, and your vision as a fiction writer in 4-6 pages. Please note: the portfolio is considered the final for our class. In order to receive credit, you will need to turn it in during our exam time when it is due (see schedule for details). 

Regular Attendance: Because of the amount of group workshops, attendance for this class is crucial. Students are allowed three unexcused absences without penalty. For each of the next three unexcused absences, I will deduct 5% of the final grade. After six absences, students will receive an F in the course. Every three tardies equals an absence. I will assume that every absence has a good reason; please do not email to let me know the reason for your absence.

Students with Disabilities: Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and may need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC). All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Washington Building, Room 217). Please stop by or call 509-335-3417 to make an appointment with a disability specialist.

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