=Write the Story @ Ferguson Library=

Write the Story was a twelve-week short fiction class at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT in the fall of 2016. The content, including readings and exercises, is available for free below. Enjoy!



Class Recaps: In-Class Readings and Exercises 

(Can be done at home!)

September 13: 

Today class members introduced themselves and spoke briefly about the stories they hope to write over the next twelve weeks. We did the Tarot Card Exercise and read the results aloud.

Homework: Each day, do Lynda Barry's Four-Minute Diary Exercise. Aim: To write every day, and to "notice what it is you notice." Optional homework: Set a personal writing goal for the week. This can be anything at all: one page a day; fifteen minutes a day; anything. Write it down. Next Tuesday, we'll see how these worked for everybody. Aim: To find goals that work for you.

September 20:

Last week was about getting to the page and writing every day. This week, we start to zero in on the story we'll be writing between now and November.

In class, we did the Character + Problem exercise. At their heart, most stories are about one main character with a significant problem. The tale unfolds as she grapples with it.

Some people already knew the elements they wanted to work with. For those who didn't, I brought in my of character cards and problem cards. You can do the same thing by clicking on the links here:


The assignment was to write about the character dealing with the problem, for ten minutes. Wrestling with it. Thinking about it. Discovering it. Whatever comes to mind. The writing should be prose: that is, not an outline or notes, but descriptions, dialogue, etc.

Next, we talked about screenwriter Billy Wilder's definition of the three-act structure: Get your character up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Get him down. We did a very abbreviated version of this Exercise in Plot.

Finally, we did the exercise I call An Ending and a Letter.

This week's homework is:

Reading: Think about how sometimes there is a difference between what a character wants and what he needs. This story illustrates the difference; read it: "Guy Walks Into a Bar" by Simon Rich. Does this apply to your main character?

Writing: Write seven pages (that's double-spaced, 12-point type) of your story. Part of the beginning, middle or end, or the whole draft—whatever you like. But it must not be notes or outline; it must be a partial draft of the story.

September 27 Class Recap

October 4 Class Recap

October 11 Class Recap

October 18 Class Recap

October 25 Class Recap

November 1 Class Recap

November 8 Class Recap

~ November 15, 22, and 29 were workshop classes, in which we discussed student work ~


Friday Posts: Readings and Exercises to Do at Home

August 12: "Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler
August 19: "White Angel" by Michael Cunningham, and an exercise in dialogue 
August 26:  An exercise
September 2: "Ghosts" by Edwidge Danticat, and an exercise
September 9: A quote from Maya Angelou
September 16: An essay by George Saunders
September 23: "Stone Mattress" by Margaret Atwood (+ "The Tattooer" by Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki)
October 7: "Monstro" by Junot Diaz
October 14: The Stone Soup Principle, and an essay by Emily Barton
October 21: "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway, and an exercise
October 28: Two Models of Failure
November 4: Stakes, Goals, and Omission
November 11: Cheever again
November 11 Bonus: "The Invasion from Outer Space" by Steven Millhauser

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