Writing Stories About Ourselves

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Overview

In this course, creative nonfiction writers will explore traditional storytelling methods, especially those which overlap between fiction and memoir. By looking at examples from a wide range of genres, including film, song, painting—even the theme music for Jaws!—we’ll practice exercising the creative muscle that sees ourselves as characters and the experiences we’ve had as tales. We’ll focus on critical elements, like how to begin a story, what makes for worthy content, the essential use of detail, the strengths and limits of dialogue, the power of the white space. The ultimate goal is for us to become aware of an “audience” when we write, so that the documentation of our lives will begin to resemble a “performance” crafted onto paper rather than a private entry in a journal.

Syllabus

What Can We Learn From Fiction?
-In this week, we’ll learn what sorts of techniques we can borrow from fiction and how to overlay them onto our personal stories.

Train Your Eye Like a Filmmaker
-In this week, we’ll learn how to create powerful scenes and vivid details by seeing precisely what we’ve put on the page—and what we haven't.

Opening the Story
-In this week, we’ll learn how to open and frame a story by examining the efficacy of various first lines.

The Joys and Pitfalls of Dialogue
-In this week, we’ll learn when and where to use dialogue, and what makes for the best soundbites.

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