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  How to Use This Class

In this course, we will be discussing the fundamental building blocks of fiction. The goal of this course is to write and publish a short story. We will focus on aspects of narrative craft that every fiction writer must master:

  1. Characterization
  2. Point of View
  3. Structure
  4. Setting and Description
  5. Plot
  6. Dialogue
  7. Voice and theme
  8. Revising for Publication

While the focus of this course is on writing short stories, understanding these elements of craft is necessary for both short story writers and novelists. Mastering these techniques will make your fiction more complex, compelling, and, ultimately, more satisfying to the reader.

We'll end with a discussion on revising for publication, and we'll discuss how to submit your work to literary journals.

Course Structure

The course is divided into eight sections. Each section includes video and written lectures, as well as recommended reading. The video lectures expand upon and reinforce the material in the written lectures.

Weekly exercises/assignments help you to practice what you've learned.

Please take your time on the assignments, and feel free to do each one more than once. Every story or scene is different; repeating an exercise can only help you to gain more practice in a particular area of narrative craft.

Some weeks, I have provided more than one exercise. If you can't do all of them, don't worry. Choose the exercise that most inspires you.

Quizzes are provided each week to help you evaluate your mastery of the lecture material.


I have highlighted one story each week that supplements our lessons. You'll find it listed within the module under the heading "Module 1 Reading, Module 2 Reading," etc. The recommended readings are optional. I want to make sure you give yourself enough time each week to watch the lessons and complete your assignments. If it isn't possible for you to get to the recommended reading sometimes, don't worry; you can always come back to it later!

Within the lectures, you'll find numerous references to published stories and novels that demonstrate the principles under discussion. I don't expect you to be able to read all of them, but I have included them in case you have the time for further study.

Where possible, I have included links to the works online. In cases where works are available in the public domain, I have linked to free versions. In the case of contemporary novels, I have most often linked to retail sites where the novels can be purchased or to licensed excerpts.


I welcome questions and comments in the weekly discussion forums. I'll open a new discussion forum for each module, so all of the questions and comments in that module will appear in one place. You'll also find longer answers to student questions in the Q&A section.


Writing is hard; that's okay. Don't expect to write a perfect story the first time around. Much of the work of writing a story happens in revision, which is why this course concludes with a section on revision. Having published four novels and two story collections, I can testify to the joys, as well as the challenges, of writing. Having taught creative writing and literature to hundreds of students at the undergraduate and graduate level, I can assure you that, while talent cannot be taught, narrative skill can. The more you write, the more you read good literature, the better you will get!

I hope that this course will serve as your foundation for many wonderful stories.

Thank you for your interest in this course. Happy writing!