This workshop is intended for people interested in short- and long-form fiction who have begun puzzling out the beginnings of their stories. Limited to 12 participants.
In this fiction-writing workshop, we will get our stories to hit the ground running by working on our Page One. Short story or long-form fiction, all the elements of narration are thrown into play right away on the first page (okay, maybe a little on the second). The themes and problems of the piece are all present, stated or suggested, sometimes hidden. We will learn to do that: get out of the starting blocks fast, leaving our anxieties behind.
The “everything at once” approach means putting all the narrative elements into play simultaneously. Setting speaks for character, dialogue speaks for plot, the description of place speaks for the theme. All intertwined, not consecutive. Everything at once, like when you meet someone in real life, even if it takes time to understand what you first thought you knew.
We’ll look at the beginning page of works of fiction to see how others have handled their beginnings. That revolver on the dining room table – does it really have to go off, and who or what will be the target? When Dante admits in Sentence One, “Halfway through the journey of my life, I found myself lost in a forest dark,” what sort of darkness is this, and why is he telling us about it? The issue of who is talking to us, and why, will be essential to our Page Ones.
The object is to become more self-aware from the beginning, without turning into hyper-planners intent on deleting all spontaneity. The Page One approach is one of the antidotes to the anxieties of the beginning writer, since it stresses action: moving quickly, getting the elements in play, foreseeing eventual themes, helping answer the question, “Why does this story exist, and where is it going?”
Often the beginnings of stories wonder about their own existence. Tom O’Brien’s The Things They Carried meditates on the difficulty of telling a true war story. How can you tell if a war story is true? What is a war story anyway? Whom can we trust? This Page-One questioning launches the book.
- Participants should bring in their own Page Ones for workshopping and performance with an eye to revision.
- They should also bring in a Page One of a work they admire (or loathe) for discussion.
Please note: There will be no class on Wednesday, October 9 or November 6. The final class will be on Wednesday, December 4.