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Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Instructor:  Patricia C. Wrede
Level:  Beginner/Intermediate
Class Times:  There will be three live class meetings.
Thursday, January 19, 2017,
Thursday, February 2, 2017, and
Thursday, February 16, 2017,

7:00 pm-8:30 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
Application Deadline:  December 23, 2016
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.

Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction


Course Description:
Setting or worldbuilding is one of the three basic components of fiction, along with plot and characters. The characters' world is the ground on which they develop and the stage on which their plot plays out, and is often called "another character." A well-chosen and effective setting can capture the reader's imagination and enhance every aspect of a story. In fantasy and speculative fiction, the world in which the story takes place is particularly important, as it is often a completely imaginary construction unfamiliar to the reader.

This course will begin with a brief look at the importance of worldbuilding and the processes by which imaginary worlds can be designed, discovered, and developed, as well as different ways writers convey their worlds within their stories. We will then look at the various elements in more depth, beginning with design and development. We will look at the ways different worldbuilding choices can affect characters and plot, and look at some of the common pitfalls. Finally, we will look at ways of portraying rich worlds in fiction.

Students will read and analyze examples of effective and problematic worldbuilding, experiment with different techniques for discovering and developing a world through various exercises and prompts, practice designing a new imaginary world or further develop an existing world or setting from their own fiction, and write and revise scenes that show their world. Students will also provide critiques on their classmates' work, and revise their work in response to feedback.

Students must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in their writing and to work to strengthen them. Students must also be ready to give feedback to classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, an umbrella term encompassing fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, alternate history, and anything in between. Yet the concepts covered may be helpful to writers of other genres of fiction, such as historical fiction and Westerns, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome.

The course will be most valuable to intermediate students, since it will assume students already understand basic concepts. Yet beginners may also profit from the class, so they, too, are welcome to apply.

Students will be required to read several pieces of fiction and several articles. Readings will be made available before the course begins via email. One or two short readings may be distributed after the course begins.

In addition, students will be required to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which they are responsible for obtaining. I have linked to one edition below; students can use any edition, but they will need to read the book, not watch the movie.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Students will have some homework assigned before our first meeting, and will also be assigned homework at each of our class meetings.

The first assignment should be completed in time for our initial meeting on January 19.

Homework will be assigned on January 19 and February 2, with due dates, respectively, of January 25 and February 8. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates' work, which will be due on February 1 and 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 files or rich text files.

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

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, performing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. I will return your homework with my feedback by the day before the next class session.

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

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.

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.

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 complete homework by the deadlines.

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 19: 
First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. Importance of worldbuilding. Overview of different approaches to the design or development of imaginary worlds. Purpose and pitfalls. Designing an imaginary world in advance and using it in a story. Assignment of homework.
January 25: 
Homework is due.
February 1: 
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with my feedback.
February 2: 
Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Impact of advance worldbuilding decisions on characters and plot. Discovering and developing an imaginary world in the course of writing a story. Student questions. Assignment of homework. Four students will have private meetings with me between 8:30-9:30 PM EST.
February 8: 
Homework is due.
February 9: 
Five students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-8:15 PM EST.
February 15: 
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with my feedback.
February 16: 
Third class meeting. Discussion of homework. Presenting imaginary worlds to your reader and convincing them. Student questions. How to continue your progress. Five students will have private meetings with me between 8:30-9:45 PM EST.
Patricia C. Wrede
New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede published her first novel in 1982 and has been a full-time writer of fantasy and science fiction since 1985. Since beginning her career, she has published twenty-four novels and a collection of short stories. She has written for audiences ranging from middle grade to young adult to adult. More information about Patricia, as well as a complete bibliography and her weekly blog on writing, can be found on her web site at http://www.pcwrede.com/.

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