Craft of Fiction


Scrambled text
Layered text from "The Pardoner"
Hills Like White Elephants


for August 30
1. read once at your natural speed (do not mark it up at this point)
2. take a few moments to remember the story and note its emotional effect on you
3. read again, this time marking things that caused you to have the responses you remember
4. read again, and at each marking, find an explanation of how and why that particular trope (literary technique) was used.
5. note questions
Since the story is very short, it shouldn't take long to do the multiple readings, but it will take you a while to investigate the use of tropes. Identifying the central trope(s) will be the key to having a coherent explanation for all of the tropes you find.

The next story you read by Hemingway will be "Old man at the Bridge," which is in the folder but will be discussed later.
For "Old Man at the Bridge," be sure to get a sense of how superficial a reading the attached study questions actually encourage. We begin with the assumption that you have gotten all of that simply by reading, and we move on to more interesting and substantive discussion/analysis on that basis. Read this GRADESAVER analysis of the story after you are done with your own response.

For "Hills Like White Elephants," see if you can explain what Anis del Toro has to do with the central theme (as you consider other issues). Read this GRADESAVER analysis of the story after you are done with your own response.

For both of the stories above, we will begin our WRITER'S analysis where the typical READER's analysis leaves off.

for September 3
We will wrap up "Hills Like White Elephants" and discuss "Old Man at the Bridge." SEE CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT.
Also have a look at what a British novelist has to say about literary fiction.
Consider the relationship between "depth" and "layering."

Read the intro from Narrative Design by Madison Smartt Bell. Consider the parallels between the state of hypnosis and dreaming. We will be talking more about the issue of structure as the semester progresses.

for September 6
READ "Depth Charge" by Craig Bernardini in Narrative Design. You should be able to see through the layering by the end of the story, and we will discuss some of that, so see if you can come to class with some examples. More significantly, consider the STRUCTURE of the story once you've finished it. Why is the story structured the way it is? What does the structure have to do with the THEME of the story?

Write a short layered passage like the excerpt from "The Pardoner."
The passage only needs to be a about a page. You may begin the exercise by simply writing a passage and then discovering what's already intuitively layered in it before you "amplify" that layering. You might also approach it by consciously deciding to have a "surface" narrative that carries the thematic or emotional content of what is layered in it. User-test your passage on a friend or classmate (and don't be surprised if they don't "get" it). Remember, if the layering is immediately recognizable, it is not working. Upload the exercise by Monday night (and be sure your name is on the document name).

for September 10
READ your classmates' Layering exercises in DropBox. We will be discussing some of them in class.

Read the two stories by EVE GLEICHMAN, a young writer not much older than yourselves, who worked at a literary agency and is now a book scout. Read both of them, and in the RESPONSE folder, write a response (one) to either one of the stories (or cover them both in the same response). I want you to consider the emotional effect of the stories and how you FEEL after reading them. What exactly do you feel, and what is it in the stories that makes you feel that way? What is hidden under the surface (and why)? Our discussion of Hemingway should provide you with a methodology for locating and identifying those elements in the story. Have your responses in the folder by Thursday night (by midnight).

You should also begin thinking about (or writing) your first story for workshop. The schedule is posted below.

A sample "associative cloud" is in DropBox.
Here is an example of an associative outline for a story. Note how the associative connections lead back inward in a torroidal pattern. The story itself is a very "constrained" story (i.e., it has many compulsory requirements of it due to its genre), but its deep structure was created by the natural associations.

The story that comes from this diagram can be read HERE if you are curious. (Note how its "apparent" story works. The theme was already set and one of the underlying goals was to emulate the voice in Hermann Hesse's novel, which explains the style and the diction -- not how I usually write.)

Put your associative cloud assignment into the appropriate folder when you're done.
for September 13
READING: J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in DROPBOX. (You don't need to post a response, but be sure to print it out and mark it up. Your goal is to try to figure out the ending based on the evidence layered in the text.) READING: Raed the otehr J.D. Sliengar sotyr in DPROOBX. (In yuor repsnose, you may adresds tihs one or "Bannafish" or btoh. The story is less complex under the surface and actually explains itself more clearly, but see if you can detect some of what is under the surface.)
Also read THIS PIECE in The Guardian regarding Salinger's unpublished stories.


Each workshop session will be approximately 25 minutes. Pick one slot before and one after the halfway point. You can see that the schedule leaves no room for adjustment, so if you miss your designated time, you will not have a chance to reschedule. Stories are due to me on the class day prior to your workshop date. (For example, if your workshop is scheduled on a Monday, you should have your story to me by the previous Thursday.) Submit your story to me in doc or docx format, single-spaced. I will format it and post it in the appropriate DropBox folder along with a folder for responses.

Look at this sample comment sheet by a student to get a sense of what to cover in your comments on workshop stories. The sample is quite extensive, and you don't need to address everything categorically (especially not the plot). Nor do you need to itemize the categories. You may simply write your comments as a note addressed to the author, but when you discuss an issue, be sure to provide specific details as in the sample. Your comment sheet should be at least 250 words (which means you should have plenty to talk about in class). It should be done BEFORE class. Bring a printed copy to class for your reference (you will give it to the author at the end of class). Also remember to print out the story and bring it to class. If you mark-up the story in a way you think is helpful to the author, you may give the author the marked copy in addition to your comment sheet.

REMEMBER: Your job isn't to explain the story to the writer (or to me). Give an honest response to the things you liked and didn't like, explaining as clearly as you can. Consider the workshop a beta test for your story. The kind of feedback you give your classmate will likely be the kind you get back -- it's workshop karma.


September 17
WRITING: Do the Fractal exercise as demonstrated in class. There are samples in the folder and 3 more below. Since the initial iterations come quickly, you may want to try more than one and then "clean up" one of them for the final iteration. Upload your results into the folder by Thursday night.

Fractal #1
Fractal #2
Fractal #3
(NOTE: In most cases, your final product will be more coherent if you begin with a longer passage -- but remember to write the first iteration as quickly and spontaneously as you can.)

September 20
1. Frederick Frankenberg
2. Michael Clark

September 24
1. Eric Gonzalez
2. Matthew McDonough

September 27
1. Shanice Reid
2. Will Sheckler

October 1
1. Lilly LeTourneau
2. Irene Tapert

October 4
1. Carly Madden
2. Carly Kapusinsky

October 8
1. Mikayla Martinez
2. Claire Egan

October 11


October 18
1. Dakota Moshier
2. Jasmine Stout

October 22
1. Sasha Parrish
2. Alexandria McIntosh

October 25
1. Inijah Germain
2. Sophie Field

October 29
1. Steven Peithman
2. Tyler Chan

[halfway point]

November 2
1. Frederick Frankenberg
2. Michael Clark

November 5
1. Eric Gonzalez
2. Matthew McDonough

November 8
1. Inijah Germain
2. Alexandria McIntosh

November 12
1. Lilly LeTourneau
2. Will Sheckler

November 15
1. Mikayla Martinez
2. Claire Egan

November 19
1. Dakota Moshier
2. Carly Madden

November 22
1. Carly Kapusinsky
2. Shanice Reid

November 26
1. Irene Tapert
2. Jasmine Stout


December 3
1. Steven Peithman
2. Sasha Parrish

December 6
1. Sophie Field
2. Tyler Chan

FINAL EXAM 12/13 - 12:30-2:30 p.m. in class


Type up the in-class exercise and put it in the "I Don't Remember" folder in DROPBOX.
Write a short passage on your FIRST MEMORY (focusing on concrete details) and put that in the "1st Memory" folder.
Read "Depth Charge" in the Bell anthology.
Pay special attention to the STRUCTURE and then the PRIMARY TROPES.
Begin by figuring out how the title is used as an organizing principle.

Study the proofreading symbols in the following link (memorize them and use them to mark up your work):

September 29
Jesse Keplinger
Comments for Jesse's story go in the "Keplinger_comments" folder.

Read this EXCERPT from Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, (pub 1966) which alludes to "A Clean Well-Lighted Place." Also read the TIME PASSES passage from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse (pub 1927). Pay special attention to sections 2 and 4. (Compare the style and structure with Rhys and Hemingway.)

True Sentences (read the compilation in DropBox.
We will begin by looking more closely at the Rhys passage and the two sections from "Time Passes."

For your entertainment and edification on the issue of dreams: "Dr. Zauze's Xylophone"
"The Circular Ruins" by Jorge Luis Borges (another translation can be found in the BORGES book in the "Other Readings" folder)

Stories to review: "Depth Charge," "Hills Like White Elephants," "Old Man at the Bridge," "A Clean Well-lighted Place," "The Circular Ruins."
Be familiar with: Hemingway's "Iceberg Theory," Bell's hypnosis analogy, and the introduction to structure Narrative Design.
Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, is the basic style guide of publishing. You should know all of the rules in that book by now (if not, you should take some time and memorize them for future use). Be familiar with the proofreading and copy editing symbols and be able to use them appropriately on a manuscript.

The opening page of Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" collection. Pay special attention to parallelism as a trope.

In Narrative Design"Oh, Man Alive"

Here is a single-page comic book adaptation from the film.

Read the original and revision of Melissa Rose's story and determine the underlying principle behind the cuts and revisions (highlighted sections are to be cut or changed). Read the final version first:
"Blue" - Final version
"Lady Blue" - Original version (cuts and other changes highlighted)
Compare the two versions and consider the logic behind the cuts:
1)What was cut, and how does it affect the story as a whole?
2) Are there particular categories that apply to the material that was cut?
How do the cuts correspond to the idea of "writing by omission"?

"The Two Raymond Carvers" - on the relationship between Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish
Study the following text and use it as a role model for your own final edits per our class discussion.
"Beginners"/"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" - a sample of the original Carver text with Lish edits
(The three texts are in the "Other Readings" folder: the edited and original versions of "Beginnings" and the final version published as "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." Have a look at the general INSTRUCTIONS for the 2nd round of stories.
Remember, you should begin by having an interpretation (even if it is implicit)
as the basis of your comments. You do not need to reiterate the plot unless
you find something problematic about it, but you should feel free to offer
advice related to the plot. (Ideally, plot and theme are convergent.)

(Also read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery")
Heather Salerno
(Also read D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner")

Poets & Writers Lit Mag Database
Proofreading text



for August 29 (F)
We will discuss "Hills Like White Elephants" and the results of your layering exercise above.

for 9/3
7 WRITING TIPS from Hemingway.

Read "Old Man at the Bridge," which is also set near the Ebro. This was published in 1938, and it should give you an interesting associative connection to "Hills Like White Elephants." Note the AP English-style questions at the end, which are nearly useless for understanding more than the surface of the story.
After the story, read this discussion, which will give you some background. Note how a discussion of the symbolism in the story is of rather limited use if you refer back to Hemingway's basic theory of writing.

Read the results from the Layering exercise according to the same protocol you used on the Hemingway story. Some of the pieces by your classmates are more "obvious" than others, and you may find that some may not appear to be layered at all. For each piece, mark the relevant words/images and try to identify the central trope.

Compare to some of these pieces from Roberto Bolano's ANTWERP.

For your own Layering exercise, condense everything into ONE TRUE SENTENCE according to your interpretation of what Hemingway meant by it. After you have the ONE TRUE SENTENCE for your exercise, do the same for one of the passages by your classmates. Send me your "true" sentences by Thursday night.

for 9/9
DO THIS Modular Exercise and look at some some sample results.Send me your results via email by Thursday night.

for 9/16
READ in Narrative Design: pages 3-32.
If you don't have the book yet, you can read these pages via the Google preview HERE.

Watch this music video for "Hero" and consider its economy. It has the entire content of a typical Hollywood movie condensed into its use of subtext. Take some notes and identify some of those subtexts (ranging from entire genres to specific films).

After reviewing the overlap and the disjunctions of the film and prose versions of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," your job is to find a short selection of film (the length is up to you) and do a prose adaptation. It only needs to be a couple of pages long, but do your best to convey, in prose, what you see as the effect(s) of the film. Remember that you will need to provide the visual experience for the reader as well (since you are not relying on the reader having seen the film). This should clue you in to the fact that your film segment will probably have to be relatively short!


Nomen est omen
The physiognomy of names in "real" life

Reality as Fiction
Storytelling and Healing
In NARRATIVE DESIGN, read: the section on Modular Design, "Daisy's Valentine," and "Little Red."

WATCH (for additional review):

You can get a whole semester's worth of University of Potsdam MOOCs HERE.

Writing exercise for this week:
Three sample palimpsests: Palimpsest #1
Palipsest #2
Palimpsest #3

F 10/31
Read "Once More to the Lake" by E.B. White (ignore the study questions, but focus on that last paragraph).

Also browse through the various versions of the New Yorker copy edits of "An Anonymous Island" to get a sense of how exacting this process can be. (Remember, the story was a translation and the editors did not know Korean!)

DO THIS EXERCISE (and email me your results):
Music Exercise & some results.

Madison Bell's recent zombie story in the Horror issue of GRANTA (and the essay linked from the bottom). Be sure to read Delia Summers' critique of Bell's story in the discussion below it.
Here is an animation of Roberto Bolano's "The Colonel's Son" in the same issue.

A typical typed manuscript page with edits
"Balloon"-style edits
More proofreader's marks
Some more proofreader's marks


New explication - for extra credit

Read some of the "found" poems in this gallery and do 3 of your own.
Some critical terms to know:
Authorial intrusion
The 4th wall (breaking it)
Persona (in its relation to Writer/Author/Narrator/Character and p.o.v.)
Frame of reference (as distinguished from Point of View)
Limited omniscience

In addition to the short answer/multiple-choice section, the final will include an explication of a photo and a short prose passage, and two short texts for you to edit using the proofreading and copy-editing symbols. You should be familiar with all the assigned readings from the semester.

1. A fully-revised text of one of the pieces you did this semester (it may or may not be one you workshopped, since I've seen other works by most of you). The Lish edits of Carver and the revision of Melissa's story should serve as models. Remember -- revision isn't just proofreading.
2. A selection of your 10 best comment sheets (ones that you wrote)
3. A properly-formatted version of the piece you are submitting to a journal, along with the submission guidelines for that journal (this means the text will be electronic). This text should be impeccably edited -- no typos or grammatical errors -- since I will be looking at it as if I am the editor.

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," by James Thurber (a story all of you should know).

href=",%20Snow%20by%20Hwang%20Sun-Won.pdf">"Snow" by Hwang Sun-won (only 3 pages)
"The Dead" (from Dubliners) by James Joyce

Pay special attention to parallelism, inversion, simile, and metaphor in Isherwood's piece.
Also look at this passage from Toni Morrison's SULA and see if you can find the primary tropes that contribute to the layered themes. (What are they?) Read "Depth Charge" by Craig Bernardini and the discussion (pp. 33-).
Pay special attention to holographic passages, the use of names, and subtexts.
We are using Bell's discussion as a starting point, so we will not spend much time reviewing that material. Go deeper into the text, as it were.

Three sample palimpsests: Palimpsest #1
Palipsest #2
Palimpsest #3

Also read:
"An Anonymous Island" -- New Yorker translation case study --see the Copy Edits link for discussion
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" - James Thurber
Proofreading symbols

Calvin & Hobbes

Be sure you have your Layering Exercise also posted in the folder. We will be talking about layering and the associative "clouds" in relation to a theory of reading/writing on Thursday, so browse those diagrams, also.

I will post time slots for the first workshop session shortly, so stay tuned and be ready to pick your slots.

for September 18
READING: Read your classmates' Layering exercises in the DropBox folder. See if you can figure out what is layered under the surface (but don't spend too much time -- if it doesn't "click" after a couple of readings, it may be because the subtext is successfully subliminal).

for September 20 (Wednesday)
READ: Meade's "Unified Conspiracy Theory" in DropBox and post our response in the folder.

Also, browse the Fractal and Layering exercises by your classmates to see what they did with the exercises.

for September 21 (Thursday) - SEE BELOW
Noah's story and Peter's will be in the WORKSHOP #1 folder with folders inside for uploading your comments to their stories. Comment sheets are due BEFORE CLASS (those posted after 2 p.m. on the workshop date will not count).

Read "Hear that Long Train Moan" by Everett, have a look at the following interview and his resume below. Come prepared with your take on what the "deep structure" of this story might be.
Interview with Percival Everett
Percival Everett's resume

"An Anonymous Island" - case study

"A Worn Path" - Eudora Welty

An interview with Welty

"A Worn Path" film - 2 parts

1930 nickel

1940 nickel

Some photographs by Eudora Welty