This workshop is for writers with some experience writing short fiction and a basic familiarity with concepts such as character, setting, point of view, etc. Ideally, all participants will have already taken at least two writing workshops or the equivalent.
The short story is a paradoxical literary form. We feel we know what it is and can generally provide a short, snappy definition of it; however, short stories often break the rules. Great stories have taken shapes that range from a paranoid internal monologue to a fast-paced, plot-driven thriller; they have been as short as a message on a postcard and as leisurely as a fifty-page account of a decades-long marriage. Just as a bare room can become a bedroom, a study, or a dining room, so can the term “short fiction” apply to a multitude of different kinds of texts. What unites these diverse forms and makes for truly effective short fiction, however, is the centring of character and voice . Powerful fiction always presents us with a compelling person.
So, to return to our analogy, if a story, like a room, can be decorated any way one wants and used for just about anything, it’s just wasted space if it isn’t being used at all. And that means it must be inhabited; someone must live in it: that someone is your character.
This workshop will explore the possibilities of the short story by focussing on the development of credible, nuanced, fully-realized characters. We will examine the building blocks of character and how character is the engine driving everything else in a narrative: setting, point of view, plot, and so on. A mix of readings, writing exercises, and in-class discussion of participants’ work, the workshop will be practical and focus on looking at how narratives operate in specific and concrete ways. This will provide us all with a better understanding of characterization and the form(s) it takes in short stories and enhance our ability to make the most of those many—and rich—possibilities. .
Participants should be ready to actively participate in discussions and present work for review in a timely manner. Any participant who has work ready to be looked at is definitely encouraged to bring it to the first session.