Discover Your Writing Niche (8 weeks)
You want to write, but you don't know where to start. Fiction or nonfiction? Article, short story, or how-to book? Who do you want to write for -- children, teens, adults? There is a type of writing that is best suited for you, and the discovery process can be a rewarding adventure. Together, we will explore the various forms of writing and help you identify what you'd be best at.
The class is designed for the individual writer and is formatted using questions that will provoke thought and discussion among students. The questions are focused on a variety of areas that concern the writer, some of which are:
Starting to Write (8 weeks)
Your high school English teacher praised your personal essay. Maybe you read a story in front of your class and received positive feedback. You might have kept a journal or even published a poem in an anthology. The writing bug bit. You may or may not have nourished your interest at the time. Or you may have only been drawn to writing recently. Whatever your history, you feel drawn to writing now. But where to begin? The choices are overwhelming. Fiction or nonfiction? Blog or short story? Humor or serious commentary?
With so many choices, it can be hard to begin. The good news is that somewhere inside of you, you have a sense of the direction to take. You simply need to give expression to your writing self and discover your own path as you write. This course will encourage that expression. You'll be given personal essay questions to ponder and respond to. Questions like: What's going on in my life when I feel the urge to write? What moves me when I'm listening? What outrages me so that I find it difficult to focus?
You'll learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction, how sensory description can put the spark and emotion into any piece of writing, that the decision to write means making space in your life, that writers are thinkers and feelers and how that translates to the page. Assignments will be kept short, but might make your head hurt -- and sometimes your heart. You can do this!
Week One:Getting Real
The place to begin is with an honest appraisal of yourself as a writer, a role you may have trouble easily slipping into. What are the obstacles that are blocking your path to success? Assignment: To write an honest profile of yourself, using questions to be provided by instructor.
Week Two: Nurturing the Muse
The creative part of yourself needs regular attention. How can you regularly nurture your muse every single day of this course? Assignment: To write a short persuasive essay about a political or religious hot issue, taking the opposite viewpoint from your own.
Week Three: Walking in Literary Integrity
Good writing, in and of itself, requires that we tell the truth. But if you're just getting started writing or have been away from it for a while, it may be difficult to write into the truth of your topic, simply because you don't regularly require that of yourself. How can you require radical honesty of yourself as a writer? Assignment: To write an essay about a topic that creates angst for you because you haven't quite landed on your point of view.
Week Four: Honoring your Talent
Whether or not you believe you have talent can often determine how much effort you'll put into writing, if you'll challenge yourself, if you'll quit too soon. Do you believe you have writing talent, and why does it matter? Assignment: To write a mock review of your first major published work --either fiction or nonfiction.
Week Five: Accessing your Voice
You can use writing to discover parts of yourself you aren't even aware of as you don't give them the opportunity for expression. Have you heard of something called voice? What is it and how do you access yours? Assignment: To write an anecdote about something that happened to you recently.
Week Six: Learning about Form and Structure
As a new or beginning writer, you can get hung up on something called form, especially if you're not clear about the choices available to you. Which forms of fiction and nonfiction do you like to read; are these also the forms in which you like to write? Assignment: To challenge yourself and write in a form that's new to you.
Week Seven: Empowering your Writing with Archetypes
Certain archetypes can often drive you as a writer, and because they're unconscious, you're unaware of how it is you may feel so much passion around, say, a particular topic or type of fictional character. How can you become more aware of your personal archetypes so that you can use them to direct rather than drive your writing? Assignment: To write a fictional or non-fictional scene from the viewpoint of an archetype you'd like to explore.
Week Eight: Going with the Flow
Time to catch up with yourself and do some self-inquiry. Where are you now that you weren't seven weeks ago? Assignment: To respond to certain questions, to evaluate where you are now as a writer and where you want to go, moving forward.
Create Story Characters Using the Enneagram (10 weeks)
The development of fictional or real story characters can often be a daunting task because, unless we have psychology degrees, we can only guess and imagine what motivates real human beings in their lives to do what they do and become who they are. And we want our story characters to be real human beings. And so we use extensive dossiers we find in how-to-write books. Or we just start writing our stories, hoping the characters come to life for us and are consistent and real in their behaviors and interactions with each other.
Along comes the Enneagram, an ancient personality study originating with the Sufis hundreds of years ago and brought to America in the 1960's, a tool to help writers take the guesswork out of character development. Because the Enneagram is real and is used by some of the top psychologists in our country, we can count on its credibility to show us what motivates real people in their relationships and individual psychological, emotional and spiritual growth. The Enneagram is the answer to flat, dull, undeveloped characters that readers soon forget after reading the story. The Enneagram can even be used to bring real people to life in our memoirs.
According to the Enneagram, human beings are deeply driven by one of nine motivations:
1) the need to be right
2) the need to be loved and valued
3) the need to be productive and to succeed
4) the need to experience one's feelings and to be understood
5) the need to understand
6) the need for security
7) the need to be happy and avoid suffering
8) the need to be self-reliant and strong
9) the need for peace and to avoid conflict.
Character development and motivation is the key to reader identification. It is only as your reader identifies with your characters that he or she will keep turning the pages of your story. In this workshop, learn the secrets of the Enneagram to guarantee that your reader identifies, cares about, and sympathizes with your story characters.
Origin of the Enneagram; overview of the numbers; a brief intro of each of the nine personality types. Assignment: To choose one of five scenarios and write a line of dialogue for each personality type.
Your character's goal in the story and how to develop it as the action moves forward; creating connection with the reader through the character's goal; study of the One, the Reformer; Assignment: To write a scene showing the Reformer pursuing his goal while interacting with another character about a personal issue he feels strongly about.
The search for your character's biggest external and internal fear; study of the Two, the Giver; Assignment: To write a love scene between the Two, the Giver, and the One, the Reformer.
Your character's major external and internal conflict and making sure it fits the genre; study of the Three, the Achiever; Assignment: to write a tense action scene involving the Three, the Achiever, and the Two, the Giver.
Your character's fatal flaw and how to reveal it in the story; study of the Four, the Artist; Assignment: To write a dramatic and emotional scene showing the Four, the Artist, in conflict with the One, the Reformer.
Your character's background; weaving the background into the story, study of the Five, the Observer; Assignment: To write a scene showing the Five, the Observer, communicating a story's theme/truth to the Three, the Achiever.
Your character's belief system and how it influences his thought processes and his behavior; study of the Six, the Skeptic; Assignment: To write a scene of dialogue showing the Six, the Skeptic, trying to persuade the Five, the Observer, of his/her point of view.
Your character's deepest wound and how it drives him from within; study of the Seven, the Adventurer; Assignment: To write a scene of external and internal suspense showing the Seven, the Adventurer, in tense conflict with the Four, the Artist.
Your character's perfect day and how pondering this will help you know your character; study of the Eight, the Asserter; Assignment: To write a scene showing the Eight, the Asserter, trying to get control of the Six, the Skeptic.
Your character's most memorable external and internal traits; creating the unforgettable character; study of the Nine, the Peacemaker; Assignment: To write a flashback scene that shows the Nine, the Peacemaker, in unwanted conflict with the Eight, the Asserter.
The Art of Storytelling Workshop (8 weeks)
Have you ever wondered about that almost magical ability that some writers seem to have to weave tales of romance, adventure, suspense, comedy, and/or horror? Whether writing fiction or memoir, these writers know how to connect with their readers so as to cause their spines to tingle, their hearts to stop, their minds to expand, their fantasies to soar, and their bellies to rock with laughter.
Is this ability a gift? Or can any writer learn to create these kinds of stories?
In this workshop, we approach storytelling as an art form that you can learn if you're willing to surrender your misconceptions about what makes a good story. Some of you may think it's all about voice. Others would swear that it's about a plot that moves. This is misconception One. The truth is it's about both - voice and structure.
We will break the art of storytelling down into practical techniques and strategies that will work like magic when applied to the page, but which will be invisible to the reader. You'll learn how to put your creative ideas into a form, whether your stories fit more naturally into fiction or nonfiction, how to find the most effective voice and/or viewpoint, how to craft suspenseful scenes so that they move a story forward, how to create characters with real emotions so that readers will care about them, how to structure a story, and finally how to connect with your reader.
Where to find ideas; sorting through ideas to find the best ones; story starters; how you start your stories; whether to write fiction or nonfiction; crafting your theme so as to focus your story. Assignment: To come up with five ideas and explore those ideas, using a list of criteria to be provided.
Outlining your story; choosing and exploring your setting; crafting scenes that move the story's action; writing interesting scene sequels that connect your scenes. Assignment: To outline your story, using the scene/sequel structure.
Exploring all of the potential viewpoints for your story: choosing the only viewpoint approach for the story you want to tell; discovering your voice. Assignment: To choose two viewpoints and write a brief scene in each one.
Creating your cast of characters - real or fictional; creating realistic protagonists and antagonists; telling your truth about real people when they're still alive; crafting effective dialogue; developing your characters' motivation so that we believe them; where and when to use flashbacks so that they don't stop the story action. Assignment: To create your cast of characters and write a brief description of each; to write a more in-depth profile/scene of your protagonist and antagonist
Exploring the depth of human emotions for your characters; using the Enneagram to show the differences in character motivations; developing humorous characters for the comedic story; creating the emotion to fit the various story types; horror, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, action adventure, suspense thriller, mystery, mainstream, literary, and young adult. Assignment: To write a scene of motivation from your protagonist's point of view, determined by the type of story you've chosen to write.
Building the suspense in your story; tips for heightening the tension; pacing your story so that it ebbs and flows in a natural way, surprising your reader. Assignment: To write a brief scene of action that includes both tension and suspense
Putting all of the elements of storytelling together so as to create a work of art; how to know when a story is working or not; what to look for when trying to fix a story that's not working. Assignment: To write the opening scene/chapter of your story, whether novel, short story, or memoir.
The power of story to connect with readers; final charge for the confirmed storyteller; marketing your story to the right audience.
The Hero's Journey for Storytellers(10 weeks)
For me, the word, 'hero', is like the word 'home' --we all want to go home. We all want to be at home. We all want to be a hero. We all want the traits that a hero has. To be a hero is to be a believer in our own amazing potential, to be courageous in pursuing our life's adventure, and to be sacrificial in our relationships with ourselves and others. It's to decrease our emphasis on the fighting and aggressive warrior archetype that we all seem to understand way too well and begin to live in the transformative and ?miraculous power of the magician archetype. To be a hero is to be at home in our own lives.
Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey is about finding the hero in our lives and giving him expression. It's saying yes to the hero when he shows up. We face down our demons and transform our fears into places of magical and miraculous potential. When we are able to do that we are empowered from the deepest and most authentic place inside of ourselves.
As writers and storytellers, acknowledging the Hero's Journey for ourselves if we're the main character in our story or acknowledging it for our characters if we're writing fiction is to give ourselves permission to break through the conflicts and troubled places in our minds to a place of transcendence, freedom, and redemption.
Chris Vogler writes in his book, The Writer's Journey: "The Hero's Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world... The Hero's Journey is a pattern that seems to extend in many dimensions, describing more than one reality. It accurately describes, among other things, the process of making a journey, the necessary working parts of a story, the joys and despairs of being a writer, and the passage of a soul through life."
This course is about identifying the journey you want to write about, deciding whether you want to approach your hero's journey through fiction or nonfiction, and then having the courage to say yes to the "call to adventure" and move into the "special world" of The Hero's Journey.
Recommended text: The Writer's Journey, by Chris Vogler.
Week One: Introduction to Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey.
What is it? How does it inform our lives? How can we become the heroes of our own lives through writing our stories? Is it possible to move from our deep-seated perception of ourselves as victims and start thinking of ourselves as heroes?
Assignment: To submit three ideas for group exploration using The Hero's Journey criteria.
Week Two: Outlining your Hero's Journey
Feeling passionate about the story idea you've chosen; becoming clear about the archetypes in your idea; identifying the stages of the journey and organizing the story events into a form.
Assignment: To create a structure for your story, to recognize the character archetypes as they present themselves, to be able to state the purpose of each archetype in your journey.
Week Three: The Ordinary World and the Call to Adventure
Hooking the reader; introducing the hero and his psychic wound; establishing your hero's background; creating an initial mood, image or metaphor; asking the sacred question; placing the inciting incident; moving behind the Herald's mask.
Assignment: To begin your story, introducing the ordinary world and writing through to the call to adventure
Week Four: The Refusal of the Call and Meeting with the Mentor
The hero avoids the call; creative excuses for his resistance; the challenge of the threshold guardians; the appearance of the Mentor; the many masks of the Mentor
Assignment: To move your hero through the refusal of the call and the meeting with the Mentor
Week Five: Crossing the First Threshold and Tests, Allies, and Enemies
Approaching the threshold and encountering the threshold guardians; crossing the threshold; contrasting the ordinary world and the special world; testing the hero; discerning who are allies and who are enemies; new rules of the special world
Assignment: To get your hero across the first threshold where he is tested and encounters his allies and enemies
Week Six: Approach to the Inmost Cave and Ordeal
Deciding on the hero's approach to his adventure; encountering the obstacles; creative appeals to the threshold guardians; complications and higher stakes; stepping back to reorganize; breakthrough; no exit; death and rebirth; crisis; facing the shadow; taste of death and cheating death; crisis of the heart; facing the greatest fear; death of the ego
Assignment: To write your hero's approach to the inmost cave and take him through his ordeal
Week Seven: Reward (Seizing the Sword) and The Road Back
Celebrating the victory; campfire and/or love scenes; taking possession of the external or internal goal; facing death; rededication to the call; renewed motivation in the face of retaliation from the enemy; chase scenes; final setback
Assignment: To reward your hero and put him on the road back home
Week Eight: Resurrection and Return with the Elixir
Cleansing from the smell of death and a new self: showdown and the highest stake yet; climax and catharsis; understanding the character arc; the hero's sacrifice; denouement; the circular story form vs. the open-ended story form; surprise; reward and punishment; identifying the Elixir
Assignment: To resurrect your hero and show his return with the Elixir
Week Nine: Rewriting your Journey
A look at theme, structure, voice, style, and tone.
Assignment: To rewrite your Hero's journey story, getting as close as you can to the story's authentic truth.
Week Ten: What now?
Learn to use your Hero's Journey in an ongoing way as a metaphor for your life.
Assignment: To write a brief summary of what you plan to do with your Hero's Journey story.
The Anti-Hero's Journey for Storytellers(8 weeks)
You've created (or are creating) a character who won't behave himself. If he's the protagonist in your story, you may think you have a real problem here, as how are you going to make him sympathetic to the reader when he keeps robbing banks, pushing little old ladies out of his way when he's crossing the street, and basically seems to care little about what's expected of him in conventional society?
There's a name for this character--the Anti-Hero.
Drawing from Joseph Campbell's monomyth, in this course, we'll study the Anti-Hero archetype, which most of the time, would be your story's antagonist; how he moves, what's important to him, what's not, what motivates him, what doesn't. This is the dark side of the Hero's Journey. We'll also study the Tragic Hero and how he directs his journey to its devastating end. Every character who opposes the good guy in your story is informed by one major archetype--the Shadow. Finally, we'll discuss what goes into the development of this dark character if he's your protagonist.
This class is for you if:
Shadow Writing (8 weeks)
This course is not for the faint of heart. If you're curious about writer's block (a myth), the dreams, longings, cravings, obsessions, and needs that distract you from your writing because of the strength of their grip, the depth that you can't quite reach in your writing for fear of turning up something unpleasant - instead of turning away, in this class, we will turn toward these things.
As writers, we are both and at once, attracted to the material of the shadow and repelled by it. Some never make the approach. Others make the approach and when encountering the unfamiliar, the strange, and/or the downright disgusting, turn away. A few are up to the challenge and charge ahead into the dark - where they find that the light is brightest. Beyond the threshold of the shadow you'll find the richest, the most authentic, the deepest writing of which you're capable.
To shadow write is to explore your unconscious longings and needs, fears and obsessions so that they don't drive your essays and stories in a way that's out of your control but rather inform your writing in a way that's honest and upholds your truest self. To shadow write is also to move into who you and your characters are as their best and worst selves, all at the same time. Finally, the decision to shadow write is to inquire into your unconscious life as much as your conscious life and to agree that you won't shrink back from death's dark door - yours and your characters' - as you write.
Step on the accelerator and move into one of the darkest places you've ever been as a writer - your own unconscious. This is where you'll find your most authentic writing self, so hang on for the ride. Both fiction and nonfiction writers are welcome.
COURSE OBJECTIVE: The most honest and authentic writing possible because of the writer's willingness to explore his or her own shadow.
What is the shadow? What is shadow writing? As writers, how do we move past the superficial and obvious into what's deeply true when writing about a topic, any topic? What are the benefits of shadow writing? How can our shadow help us connect with ourselves? Assignment: Write a profile of your shadow self.
Consider the longings and needs that are conscious for you. Now learn to write into the ones that aren't, that are hidden in the shadow of your consciousness. When you can bring these out in your writing, they will inform your own life and the lives of your characters in ways you never imagined. Assignment: Write an essay or a fictional scene that explores a longing or need you've never before acknowledged to yourself or written about. Prompts will be provided.
We are as afraid of the good" in ourselves as we are the "bad.". But we can only achieve authenticity as writers when we can own both the good and the bad and integrate them into our creative self as we write. The shadow is where we must go in our writing in order to achieve this process. Assignment: Explore your "good" and "bad" self in an essay or create a scene that includes the protagonist and antagonist facing off in an area that incorporates the bad in the protagonist and the good in the antagonist.
Too often, as writers, we come up to our fears and obsessions and, instead of owning them in our stories and essays, we run the other way, thereby weakening the themes we want to explore for ourselves and our readers. Learn to plunge in; you will survive. Assignment: Explore a personal fear and/or an obsession in an essay or fictional scene or story. You will be asked specific questions to help you access what's hidden in your shadow.
Our shadow can be filled with guilt and shame. When writing, whether a fictional story or a personal memoir, we can suddenly back away from writing a particular scene or exploring a certain kind of character because of unresolved and now unconscious guilt and/or shame around a moment in time in our personal lives. Facing our shadow can help us bring these moments out into the light and resolve them in our writing. Assignment: Write a fictional scene or a scene from your life that filled you with guilt and shame, rewriting the ending and giving the moment a resolution.
We all unconsciously wear masks in public in order to protect our true selves from judgment, ridicule, rejection and a host of other reactions that we believe we would receive were others to see who we really are. When writing, we continue this facade because of our own negative reactions to our true selves. If we were to take off all of the masks during our daily writing time, who would we be? Assignment: Create a fictional character who behaves one way in public and another in private and put him into a scene where his false self is exposed. Or write about a real time when you had to make the choice to present your false self or to stand up and be your true self.
Life and death - the last territory we must conquer as writers. Writing about death can scare the bravest of writers, but we often don't look so deeply into our lives and understand that writing about life can be equally as scary. While some of us do make an effort to write consciously about life and death, it's the unconscious - the shadow - that holds the deepest secrets and the most authentic writing that is accessible to us on these topics. Assignment: Write an essay that explores both life and death simultaneously or a fictional scene where your character is faced with death or, if staying alive, means making an unethical or immoral choice.
Now that we've been awakened to some of the parts of ourselves that aren't readily accessible when we write, how can we assure that we don't go back to sleep in those areas? Shadow writing can be sustainable if there is a commitment to waking up to our authentic selves when we write. Assignment: Create a plan to pursue shadow writing in whatever form it seems to want to show up.
Accessing Your Writer's Voice (3 weeks)
Every writer has a natural voice, and every natural voice has its own way of telling a story. It has its own rhythm, pace, sense of detail, anecdote, and - if allowed to improvise - this natural voice can discover the story's content and form. Natural voice is like a finger pointing at the moon, but it isn't the moon itself. It takes time, patience, and work to refine this voice into a polished voice that can tell a story. But when your natural voice is allowed to lead the way, the result is a story with fire and spirit.
- Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall, Finding Your Writer's Voice
Your characters are often little more than a roving crowd of strangers until you discover your story's voice and choose your point of view which determines the tone of characters ' movements and thoughts, the tenor of their dialogue. Voice and viewpoint ultimately drives the storyteller 's every word choice, including the details of setting, the descriptions of characters, the conversations heard and, sometimes more important, not heard.
In this workshop, you 'll be learning how and why certain point of view choices alter a reader 's experience with your work and how you can alter that experience through changes in voice and point of view. You 'll be applying what you learn to your own writing, discussing the effects of that writing and discussing the work of others in the class as well. You 'll become comfortable with the point of view techniques that will allow you to create powerful and creative fiction.
The workshop will consist of three one-week sessions.
Recommended text: Finding your Writer 's Voice by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall (highly recommended but not required)
Week One: Finding Your Voice - It 's an Organic Journey
Finding your voice for your story; focusing your viewpoint--are there rules; allowing the process: cultivating your voice; doubting your voice
Assignment: To write two scenes, using a different viewpoint in each.
Week Two: Third Person or First Person - the Search for the Most Effective Approach
The four approaches to third-person viewpoint (singular, multiple, up close and personal, from a distance; know your character; the reliability of the first-person protagonist; some pitfalls
Assignment: To write two scenes, one in third-person pov and one in first-person pov.
Week Three: A Look at the Unconventional Voice - Now Let 's Roll
The omniscient viewpoint; the unseen narrator; the minor-character viewpoint; the unsympathetic voice; the untrustworthy voice; the second person voice; Questions to ask: Is the Viewpoint Working; Is the Voice Working; Does the Story 's Voice fit the Genre?
Assignment: To write two scenes, the first in an unconventional point of view, the second, the one rising organically within a story you 've been working on.
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