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Narrative Structures in Fantastic Fiction

Instructor:  Bruce Holland Rogers
Level:  Intermediate/Advanced
Class Times:  There will be three class meetings.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012,
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 and
Wednesday, February 22, 2012,
7:00 pm-8:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
Application Deadline:  December 29, 2011
Tuition:  $229.00

For a description of the class, its assignments, requirements, and
schedule, see the syllabus below.
To apply, click here.

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

Narrative Structures in Fantastic Fiction


Course Description:
Award-winning author Bruce Holland Rogers finds structure one of the most useful guides when writing a story. Often he will start a story with no more than a subject and a structure, and it will take him to fascinating places and leave him with a satisfying, unified story.

Structure can provide a story with unity, and it can give an author direction. In this course, Bruce will explain how narrative theory can aid writers by helping them identify and use powerful strategies, modes, and structures. While most writers have a strong sense of what genre or sub-genre they're writing in, they have little sense of what type of structure they are using, if any. This leads to muddled, dissatisfying narratives. Bruce will lay out a fascinating array of various structures, beginning with flash fiction structures, moving on to short story structures, and finally covering structures for long narratives. Bruce will discuss the requirements and goals of these various structures, and how they can be developed with originality and emotion. Students will study and discuss examples, perform exercises to practice techniques, and write short-shorts that use some of the structures discussed. Students will also provide critiques of their classmates' work, and revise their work in response to feedback.

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 feedback to your classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help you improve your writing.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, which is an umbrella term I use to cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Many of the examples we discuss will be taken from fantastic fiction. Yet the issue of skillfully controlling showing and telling is important in all fiction writing, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome

Homework will be assigned on January 25 and February 8, with due dates, respectively, of February 1 and February 15. Any student who misses a deadline 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 2003 files, rich text files, or ascii files.

You should reserve a minimum of 6 hours to complete each homework assignment.

Assignments will include readings, writing exercises, critiques, and revisions of your fiction. Bruce will provide feedback on your homework before the next class session

Students are expected to follow guidelines about postings to the Yahoogroup in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

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

Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for you to get the most out of this course.

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

There is no method for making up any missed classes.

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

It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to make up any work.

Students are expected to follow the policies set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:
January 25:      First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. Discussion of major concepts. What is narrative theory? What is the difference between a strategy, a mode, and a structure? How can these concepts help writers create strong fiction? Structures for short-short stories. Study and discussion of examples. Assignment of homework.
February 1:      Homework is due.
February 8:      Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Structures for longer short stories. Study and discussion of examples. The requirements and goals of the various structures. How to find the right structure for your subject or idea. Homework is returned with Bruce's feedback. Assignment of homework.
February 15:      Homework is due.
February 22:      Third class meeting. Discussion of homework. Structures for novellas and novels. Discussion of examples. How structures can be developed into works with originality and emotion. How to identify narrative strategies, modes, and structures on your own, adapt them to your own purposes, and continue your progress. Homework is returned with Bruce's feedback.


Bruce Holland Rogers Bruce Holland Rogers has a home base in Eugene, Oregon, the tie-dye capital of the world. His fiction is all over the literary map. Some of it is SF, some is fantasy, some is literary. He has written mysteries, experimental fiction, and work that's hard to label.

For six years, Bruce wrote a column about the spiritual and psychological challenges of full-time fiction writing for Speculations magazine. Many of those columns have been collected in a book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer (an alternate selection of the Writers Digest Book Club). He is a motivational speaker and trains workers and managers in creativity and practical problem solving.

He has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado, the University of Illinois and, as a Fulbright professor, Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and Jyväskylä University in Finland. Bruce makes frequent appearances at writer's conferences. He is currently a member of the permanent faculty at the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, an accredited low-residency program that stands alone and is not affiliated with a college or university. It is the first and so far only program of its kind. Bruce offers an annual subscription to his short stories, emailing out a story to subscribers every three weeks for a mere $10. You can find out more at www.shortshortshort.com.

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