Scene, exposition, summary. Scene, exposition, summary. Sure, you can build convincing, beautiful fiction using this model of moving your characters through a world, commenting upon it, and continuing forward deeper and more invested in the future outcomes of those characters. Or you might choose to build your fictional world more haphazardly, more out of pieces than of wholes. We might call this modular fiction: A fiction, be it a short story or a novel, that moves through time without apparent causation, a fiction that moves through space without apparent structure, a fiction, in other words, built of many moving pieces sometimes connected, sometimes disconnected. The surprise, of course, is that there IS causation and structure, but it is built differently than a more traditional story arc. How do we write fiction, like Mary Robison and Vi Khi Nao and Rachel Khong and Carole Maso and Lidia Yuknavitch, etc, composed in layers without time, without space and yet make it feel whole and continuous? We will study the traditional story arc, learn its properties, and then learn how to differentiate our fiction by subverting those traditions. We will read work written in modular form and then write our own fiction modeling those pieces. There are innumerable ways to tell a story; why stop at one invented millenia ago?
Gary McDowell's Aflame won the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in Fall 2020. He is also the author of Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017) and Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), among other books. His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, New England Review, and The Southern Review.
"Gary McDowell was an encouraging, knowledgeable and generous instructor. In his class, I not only learned much more about the technical aspects of writing a poem than I had known before but with his help, was inspired to infuse certain of my poems with greater clarity and strength."
"Encyclopedic knowledge of modern American poetry, willing to share what he has learned about writing itself, which is considerable and worthwhile, all this remarkably without ego; Gary creates a stimulating supportive space to learn."
"Gary set a great workshop tone. He was totally supportive and inclusive, expertly steering discussion but also talking to us as peers. He had things to add, but was never overbearing. I loved his way of instructing and would take a class from him again!"