Laura Brodie – Where to Begin: Steps Toward Creating a World

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Where to Begin: Steps Toward Creating a World (multi-genre)

Whether you want to write short stories, memoir, or a novel, your opening pages will be crucial for creating a world that engages your reader. This workshop will move through the essential elements of fiction as we craft the opening chapter of a longer story or novel. In the first week we’ll generate a few pages of new writing with a plot prompt designed to introduce conflict. Then, through exercises in setting, characterization, dialogue and backstory, we will build a world around that conflict. Though we will be fleshing out a new piece of writing, you’ll be free to tailor your optional exercises to make them useful for any outside projects. (In other words, you can explore, in more detail, the setting for your latest short story, or discover new character traits in the protagonist of your novel-in-progress). The last three weeks of the course will focus on workshopping pages of your choice—either pieces you have produced outside of class, or the new pages that the workshop has inspired. This course will be geared toward intermediate and beginning writers, though people of all levels are welcome. Suggested readings will come primarily from Norton Anthology short stories and novel excerpts by authors ranging from Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to Sandra Cisneros and Cormac McCarthy. Although the course will focus on fiction, the lessons learned will be applicable to memoir and other forms of creative nonfiction.

Link to Instructor Letter.

Laura Brodie is the author of four books—nonfiction, memoir and novels—that have been featured in media outlets ranging from The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, to The Dianne Rehm Show and CNN. Her first book, Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women (Pantheon 2000, Vintage 2001), covered the transition to coeducation at America’s last all-male military college. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Season (Berkley/Penguin 2009), won the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom prize for best novel-in-progress, was published in five languages, and became a bestseller in Germany. After writing Love in a Time of Homeschooling (Harper 2010, HarperPerennial 2011), she blogged for Psychology Today magazine about public education and its discontents, and the emotional ups and downs of short-term homeschooling. More recently her short story, “Spiderman Summer,” was anthologized in The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Laura has taught novel-in-progress workshops at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, and currently works as a Visiting Associate Professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

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