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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Lisa N Ritscher
ENGL 284
Seattle Campus

Beginning Short Story Writing

Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.

Class description

It was said in the old days that every year Thor took his hammer and beat a circle around Middle-earth, beating back the enemies of order. But Thor got older and weaker every year, and the circle occupied by gods and men grew smaller. The wisdom god, Woden, went out to the king of the trolls, got him in an arm lock, and demanded to know of him how order might triumph over chaos. "Give me your left eye," said the king of the trolls,"and I’ll tell you. Without hesitation, Woden gave up his left eye. "Now tell me." The troll said, "The secret is: Watch with both eyes!"

In this course, we’ll take the posture of apprentice writers as we cautiously, humbly, tiptoe into the workshops of the masters of the craft and watch them as they stoke the fires of their smithy and wield their hammers in the practice of the craft of writing. We’ll take a page, pun intended, from Woden’s book, and be careful to watch with both eyes, so we can learn how to wield the written word in story form. The class will explore contemporary and classic short story forms with an eye and ear to use the masters as mentors. We’ll sit at the proverbial feet of masters like Chekhov, Murakami, Saunders and Hempl,and begin our apprenticeship with some exercises in craft, based on imitation and emulation of our master-mentors.

Student learning goals

Students will be exposed to a variety of masters of the short form and will be challenged to close readings of the texts—reading with the posture of an apprentice. The students will gain tools and a vocabulary to engage with literature in a thoughtful and serious way, though readings, discussions, and written exercises. Students will finish with an understanding of the basic elements of a short story: character, plot, voice, pacing, point of view, and dialogue, with the primary objective of increasing our reader-ly appreciation of literature and our writer-ly engagement with the craft of literature’s making. About three-fourths of class time will be devoted to engaging with published fiction and studying elements of narrative craft, and about one-fourth of the course will be spent in discussing the student’s own works.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Lisa N Ritscher
Date: 06/17/2011