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The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling

Instructor:  Barbara Ashford
Level:  Intermediate
Class Times:  There will be three live class meetings.
Monday, January 6, 2020,
Monday, January 20, 2020, and
Monday, February 3, 2020

7:00 pm-8:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
Application Deadline:  December 7, 2019
Tuition:  $239.00

For a description of the class, its assignments, requirements, schedule, and a biography of the instructor, see below.

To apply, click here. Note: If you wish to apply for more than one class, you must apply for each class with a separate application.

For more information on Odyssey's Online Classes, click here.

Reactions from Barbara Ashford's Students

Barbara is an incredibly knowledgeable and effective instructor who completely blew away all my expectations for the course. In addition to discovering how to bring emotions to the page in a stronger and more precise manner, I learned more about theme, story structure, characterization, and world building than I'd thought possible for three short classes. Her analysis of my novel excerpts has helped me redirect my wandering plot issues, and every critique I received has been detailed, analytical and thought provoking. This course over-delivered and will be something I refer back to for many works to come.
                                                                           --Christine Row

The subtitle for this class is "Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling." At first I didn't get it, and resisted it, but during the course something clicked inside for me. Now I see it so clearly it's hard to imagine why emotional resonance had been such a mystery. The teacher is outstanding, bringing her own emotional resonance into her teaching technique.
                                                                           --David Ballard

The instructor's enthusiasm matched her expertise as she led us through the course material in logical steps. By the end of the course, I had increased my understanding of what is meant by emotional resonance and how it really is the core of a satisfying reading experience. I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to increase the depth and emotional impact of their writing.
                                                                           --Holly Schofield


The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling


Course Description:
The best stories take readers on a journey that satisfies their hearts as well as their minds. But just having your characters cry or laugh will never get readers to share the emotions behind those actions. Effective storytelling is about creating drama on the page that arouses a variety of emotions in the reader: curiosity, anticipation, anxiety, surprise. It requires careful crafting from conception to execution to achieve that.

This course will take you from "setting the stage"--understanding the heart of the story you are telling--to "getting it on the page"--exploring techniques that will not only show the emotions of your characters but evoke the intended emotional response from your readers. Award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford will discuss ways to infuse drama and emotion into every aspect of storytelling--from setting and description to character development and plot events--and create greater emotional resonance by weaving these building blocks of story together.

Lecture, discussion, examples, and writing exercises will help you understand the implicit promise your story makes to a reader; deepen character complexity; create drama and emotional resonance in your scenes; use characterization and "beats" to reveal character emotions on the page; and avoid style choices that can inadvertently distance your readers from the story you're telling.

The class will explore the writer-reader relationship, including ways of crafting scenes to elicit the "correct" emotional response from readers. Barbara will also examine how an author's feelings can impact storytelling and offer practical suggestions for overcoming the discomfort that can arise when writing scenes of raw emotion.

The course is intended for all fiction writers, with an emphasis on those who write fantastic fiction. The course will be most valuable for intermediate writers, since it will assume students already understand the basics of writing.

Each student will have one private meeting with Barbara. Students will also provide critiques of their classmates' work, and revise their work in response to feedback.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging environment that will help students improve their writing. You must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and to work to strengthen them. You must also be ready to give honest, helpful feedback to your classmates.

Students will be required to read selections from writing texts and scenes excerpted from various novels. All required readings will be emailed to students before the course begins. Students will be notified before the course begins of any films that they are required to view.

Barbara will also reference a variety of movies, the titles of which will be provided to students in advance. It is strongly suggested that students be familiar with these films in order to better understand the context of Barbara's examples.

Homework will be assigned on January 6 and 20, with due dates, respectively, of January 12 and 26. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates' work, which will be due on January 19 and February 2. Any student who misses a deadline for submitting homework or critiques may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be in standard manuscript format and should be submitted as MS Word files or rich text files.

You should reserve a minimum of 5 hours to complete each homework assignment.

Assignments will include readings, writing exercises, scene submissions, and scene analysis. Barbara will provide feedback on your homework before the next class session.

The number of critiques students will be required to write is determined by class size; for a maximum class size of 14, students should expect to read and critique 3-4 submissions for each homework assignment. Students will also be required to reply to online discussion questions during the course.

Students will be required to read a lesson on critiquing before the course begins.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about assignments and class materials established in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify the instructor.

Classes will be recorded and made available to students for a limited time. On rare occasions, students' computers do not allow them to access the recordings, so we cannot promise that this will work for you.

It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to complete homework by the deadlines.

Any student who misses more than one class may be expelled from the course and will receive no refund.

Students are expected to follow the policies about attendance and behavior set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered here.

Tentative Schedule:
January 6: 
First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. The importance of emotion in storytelling. The universal values that underpin all stories. Understanding your story's promise. Using promise to build an emotional connection with your readers and create story cohesion and drama. The importance of making a "down payment" on your story's promise in your opening chapter/scene. Establishing tone and voice. Crafting hooks and prompts that arouse reader emotions. Character vs. characterization. Understanding and revealing your protagonist's true nature. Using inner conflict to add complexity to your characters and arouse an emotional reaction in your readers. Assignment of homework.
January 12: 
Homework is due.
January 19: 
Critiques are due.
January 20: 
Second class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment. Getting emotion on the page. Scene studies that convey emotion, complexity, character, and conflict. Avoiding the cliché trap. Techniques to show character complexity. Creating compelling dialogue. Understanding subtext--the "river of emotion that flows beneath the words." Calibrating emotion through rhythm and tempo. Understand how psychic distance impacts reader reactions. Using "beats" to fine-tune emotional shifts within a scene. Assignment of new homework.
January 26: 
Homework is due.
January 29: 
Some students will have private meetings with Barbara between 7:00-8:15 PM EST.
January 31: 
Some students will have private meetings with Barbara between 7:00-8:15 PM EST.
February 2: 
Critiques are due.
February 3: 
Third class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment. Exploring ways to infuse emotion and tension into setting and description. Creating a dramatic plot. Expectations and reversals. Building emotional resonance. Techniques for fine-tuning micro vs. macro pacing. Fulfilling the promise you make to readers in your opening scenes. Stylistic red flags that can inadvertently distance readers from your story and techniques to address them. Creating emotional reveals that elicit the intended response from readers. How our attitudes towards emotion can impact our storytelling. Acting and brainstorming techniques to help tap you into emotions. Some students will have private meetings with Barbara after class.

Barbara Ashford Award-winning novelist and librettist Barbara Ashford has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters and her "emotional, heartfelt" storytelling. Her background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her delve deeply into character and explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd has been optioned for Broadway.

Barbara's first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster's Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster's Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society's 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

She drew on her musical theatre roots for her second novel series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. DAW Books released the two novels in an omnibus edition: Spells at the Crossroads.

A graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught seven previous online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than a decade. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.

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