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15 Nov

    WHAT DOES HE FEEL? WHAT DOES HE DO?

    First, figure out what is the next thing that happens in your story.  This is the next beat, or the next plot point, as your protagonist struggles to achieve his or her goal or desire, and to avoid his or her problems.  Usually, the protagonist will fail, and more than once, before the climax of a story. […]

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    11 May

      NOTICING

      A lot of the time we talk about writing, we describe the inner world, the magical, multi-sensory universe of your story you can only experience in your mind. Imagining your story as vividly as possible is one of the most important tools in becoming a great writer. However, the other, equally important habit all writers […]

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      04 May

        TRACKING SHOTS

        This week, I want you to try a writing technique I’m going to call a “tracking shot.”  A tracking shot is actually a term from film, where a camera moves on a dolly.  It’s a great way of establishing setting, especially in a place with a lot of different things going on in different places.  […]

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        27 Jan

          MY TRUE STORY: WEEK 2!

          Hi there! In our second workshop, we talked about why setting was so important and how we can think of it as the: 1. time and time period 2. place or location 3. environment and weather 4. society of a story or event. For homework, you will do the following: 1. Select your top two […]

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          05 Jan

            MY TRUE STORY: WEEK 1!

            In our first workshop, we started off writing absurd (and hilarious) “true” stories but by the end were talking about funny/surprising/unexpected real events that occurred in our lives. We learned that a personal essay is more than just a story about a past experience; there must be a lesson that you want to share. However, at […]

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            02 Dec

              REVISION

              You’re down to the final week before the reading.  You’re going to go back through your story, read it out loud, tell it to yourself.  If you stumble, if it feels funny in your mouth, or to your ear, stop.  Something is wrong.  Rewrite that bit.  Read it again.  Better?  Not quite? Tweak a word, […]

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              24 Nov

                MY TRUE STORY: WEEK 7!

                It’s getting down to the wire, folks! Your personal essays are starting to take great shape! Let’s push to make them even stronger! In our last workshop, we started looking at effective outlines for our personal essays. In other words, we want to make sure that our essays have a “shape” that makes them easy […]

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                10 Nov

                  MY TRUE STORY: WEEK 5!

                  Hey, everyone! Do you know what time it is? It’s DRAFTING time. So, we need to bring the rough drafts of our personal essays to our next two workshops for reading and peer review. Therefore, make sure that you EMAIL me your draft by Sunday, November 15th. Before sending me your draft, make sure that […]

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                  03 Nov

                    MY TRUE STORY: WEEK 4!

                    Hey, everyone! This week we learned about using figurative language like: – similes (comparing things using “like” or “as” e.g. “He’s as fast as a cheetah.”) – metaphors (intentionally describing things as something else e.g. “She’s a fox!”) – personifications (giving inanimate, non-human things human-like qualities e.g. “The sky grew dark and angry.”) – hyperbole (exaggerating for effect e.g. […]

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                    05 Jun

                      WHAT DOES HE FEEL? WHAT DOES HE DO?

                      First, figure out what is the next thing that happens in your story.  This is the next beat, or the next plot point, as your protagonist struggles to achieve his or her goal or desire, and to avoid his or her problems.  Usually, the protagonist will fail, and more than once, before the climax of a story. […]

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                      14 Apr

                        USING PHOTOGRAPHS

                        Your assignment this week will help you start to think about character and point-of-view.  First, find a photograph with at least two people in it.  They may not be famous people, or people you know, so no family vacation photos and no Benedict Cumberbatch.  You can rip something out of a magazine, or print something from online, […]

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                        02 Mar

                          TRAPPED!

                          We talk a lot about how problems and conflict make a story more exciting.  For this week’s assignment, I want you to trap your protagonist in a confining space.  Depending on your taste or your story, it could be a refrigerator, a closet, a trunk, a jail cell, a car trunk, an elevator, a port-a-potty, […]

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                          02 Mar

                            CLIMAX

                            Hi folks, Most of you are heading towards the end of your stories (or at least can see the ending in the distance), so it’s time to talk about writing the climax. The climax is the top of that plot mountain teachers are always talking about, the final battle, the answer to the mystery, the […]

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                            25 Jan

                              INTERIORITY

                              Each person sees the world in a different way, and so does each character.  Point of view doesn’t just mean first-person or third-person, it’s the his unique, perspective of the protagonist, the strange blend of what he or she sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes, remembers, dreams about, worries about, wants, wonders, fears, or, to put […]

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                              07 Oct

                                DESIRES AND OBSTACLES

                                As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”  This is excellent advice, as characters who don’t want anything, who are bored, complacent, or satisfied with their lives, make for dull stories. But what if that thirsty character simply goes over to the sink and fills […]

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                                30 Sep

                                  TELLING YOUR STORY THROUGH DIALOGUE

                                  Of all the tools and tricks a writer employs, I think dialogue may be the most important.  Not only does dialogue bring your characters to life, it can also reveal their personalities, it can advance the plot, and it can build tension.   It’s also really fun to read. For this week’s assignment, I want […]

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                                  24 Sep

                                    CHARACTER-BUILDING QUESTIONS

                                    Answer the following questions in your notebook or on a separate sheet of paper.  You do not need to write in full sentences.  If you don’t know, skip it and come back, but don’t skip too many– just go with your instincts. What color is your hair? What color are your eyes? You have a […]

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                                    20 Sep

                                      ONE DAY

                                      This week in writing workshop, you did a lot of thinking and dreaming about your story.  Hopefully, you now have a fledgling idea for character and a story, or maybe you feel sure of what you want to write about.  Whatever your state of mind, you still have the same problem.  How do you begin? […]

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                                      02 Jun

                                        FILL IT UP WITH YOURSELF

                                        This week, in class, I asked you to: 1) Identify the emotion the protagonist was feeling in your story’s next scene. 2) Write about a real moment from your own life when you felt that same emotion. 3) Write your story’s next scene using some of the your own real feelings, thoughts, visceral details from […]

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                                        04 Apr

                                          INTERVIEWING YOUR PROTAGONIST

                                          “It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” – William Faulkner This week in workshop, I asked […]

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                                          04 Apr

                                            INTERVIEWING YOUR PROTAGONIST

                                            “It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” – William Faulkner This week in workshop, I asked […]

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                                            24 Feb

                                              SETTING

                                              Many young writers find writing setting a bit of a chore; they would rather get on with their story instead of describing the wallpaper.  However, setting can and should be much more than an inventory of your protagonist’s bedroom.  Setting is one of the primary ways a writer establishes a story’s mood, that is the […]

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                                              02 Feb

                                                MINING YOUR TRUTH

                                                All fiction, whether it be realistic or fantastical, originates from something true in the author.  You may not be aware of this connection when you begin a story; in fact, I think it’s best if you don’t think about it when you’re starting out, so you don’t get scared off. At a certain point in […]

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                                                20 Jan

                                                  THE MIND OF THE ANTAGONIST

                                                  In fiction, the antagonist is the opponent or enemy of the protagonist, but that doesn’t mean the antagonist is purely evil or bad.  In fact, it’s much more interesting for your story if you can get to know your antagonist as a complex, deep character, rather than a simple enemy.  In order to develop this […]

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                                                  11 Jan

                                                    A VIVID AND CONTINUOUS DREAM"

                                                    In his book, On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner says that the goal of the writer is to create a “vivid and continuos dream.”  You’ve probably experienced that state as a reader where you are completely absorbed in the world and the story.  How do you create that feeling in your own writing? The answer lies in […]

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                                                    30 Oct

                                                      SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS

                                                      In most stories, there is a particular object that takes on a lot of meaning or significance.  For instance, think of the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, or the sneakers in Holes. Your task this week is to write the next scene in your […]

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                                                      24 Sep

                                                        IN MEDIAS RES

                                                        Today we learned about in medias res, a literary technique where the author begins the story in the middle of the action, rather than beginning at the beginning.  We looked at five examples of novels that begin in medias res: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss, All the Right […]

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                                                        24 Sep

                                                          IN MEDIAS RES

                                                          Today we learned about in medias res, a literary technique where the author begins the story in the middle of the action, rather than beginning at the beginning.  We looked at five examples of novels that begin in medias res: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss, All the Right […]

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                                                          10 Jun

                                                            SINS

                                                            Choose one of the “deadly sins,” which are lust, sloth, rage, gluttony, jealousy, greed, and pride.  Shame also works well.  Write a scene where your main character is feeling one of those “sins” in a big way!  Think about how to express the feeling in metaphor or concrete detail. Show the feeling, don’t tell the […]

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                                                            10 Jun

                                                              VILLIANS

                                                              Cruella De Ville? Voldemort? Darth Vadar? Who is your favorite villain in fiction or film? Any particular moments you remember clearly? And while you’re at it, why do we love those villains so much?

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                                                              13 May

                                                                LYING AND FIGHTING

                                                                This week’s assignment asks you to engage with two painful human habits: lying and fighting.  You can choose to fictionalize one or the other, or both, it’s up to you. Almost everyone lies, whether they be small “white” lies or full-scale deceptions, and the moments when people lie are usually full of stress, desire, and […]

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                                                                19 Nov

                                                                  PLOT YOUR STORY

                                                                  This week, I would like you to continue writing a story you have already started. Everyone seems to have a strong story in progress, and I don’t want to break your flow by forcing you to move onto a new idea. So please write two new pages of the story you have already started. If […]

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