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Tunxis Community College

Title: Creative Writing: Fiction     No: 1356
Semester: Spring 2019                 Hours: 3.0
Instructor: Ersinghaus                  Time: MW 5-6:20 PM

Important Links:
College Policy on Plagiarism and Other Policies
Academic Calendar
myCommnet

Required Texts
None. All readings for the course are provided by the professor or as links to the Course Reading Calendar.

Description
Focuses on the elements and techniques of fiction writing.  Students will study examples of fiction of many kinds and discuss and practice elements of craft, such as character, conflict development, dialogue, and point of view.  Students will write fiction and discuss their work in a workshop environment.

Student Contact Information
It is typical that students will be informed about important course-related information via their community college-issued email accessed via myCommnet. This email can be linked to an existing email account.

Student Email Information

Evaluation

All evaluated materials will be assessed against the Creative Writing: Fiction course abilities. The following list provides a general look at the evaluated elements of the course:

End of Semester portfolio:

  1. 3 mid-length short stories that add to 20 pages of new writing
  2. Several shorter practice works (weekly story exercises) of 50 to 200 words in length each
  3. A creative journal

Attendance Policy
Attendance will be taken every day. If you miss class for whatever reason, you’re responsible for work due or to be completed at the next meeting in the same way as those students in attendance. Typically, missed information will be demonstrated in the assessed materials required for the course. Issues of attendance my be complicated by work, health-related issues, weather, or family responsibilities. Please make sure you plan ahead to schedule other appointments so that they do not conflict with class session times because there is no such thing as an “excused” absence. All absences from class mean that you miss the materials, concepts and ideas presented on that day and these cannot be made up. It’s advised that you take contact information from other students in class so that you can share notes.

I reserve the right to change, reword, add and/or subtract materials in order to meet changing circumstances, expectations, and course requirements. This means that it is possible that if you miss a particular day, you may miss new assignments, new assessment criteria, or changes to an assignment. Note that it is the student’s responsibility to keep a close eye on the Course Calendar which is online and always available.

Another issue with attendance has to do with how learning is constructed in the course. Each class meeting adds to what has come before in a specific way, so missing class leaves gaps that are nearly impossible to reconstruct. So the second sentence in the above paragraph is deceptive. Life happens, so “requiring” perfect attendance is impossible. On the other hand, choosing not to attend will affect your ability to perform at peak.

There are days on the Calendar that are required for your attendance. These include all days where work must be handed in, days where a quiz may be given, and peer review sessions. Note that no work provided in ways other than indicated on the Course Calendar will be accepted for review or for a grade.

Ability-Based Learning
At Tunxis Community College students are assessed on the knowledge and skills they have learned.  The faculty identified the General Education Abilities critical to students’ success in their professional and personal lives.  In every class, students are assessed on course abilities, sometimes program abilities, and, in most classes, at least one General Education Ability.  Students will receive an evaluation of the degree to which they have demonstrated or not demonstrated that General Education Ability.

In this course, you will be introduced and expected to practice discipline based and General Education abilities.  What follows is a list of the specific expectations. Each statement begins with The student:

Course/Discipline Abilities
1. Develop story ideas from concept to final copy
2. Write compelling dialogue, scenes, and resolutions
3. Craft and edit fiction of various types

General Education Abilities

Aesthetic Dimensions

Students will understand the diverse nature, meanings, and functions of creative endeavors through the study and practice of literature, music, the theatrical and visual arts, and related forms of expression.

Rubric

Demonstrates:  Identifies and describes formal aspects, historical or cultural context, and aesthetic elements of the genre with clarity and appropriate vocabulary.

Does Not Demonstrate:  Unable to clearly identify and describe the formal aspects, historical context, and aesthetic elements of the genre.

Grade Assignments
A=95-100 C+=77-79 D-=60-63
A-=90-94 C=74-76
B+=87-89 C-=70-73
B = 84-86 D+=67-69
B- =80-83 D= 64-66

Ability-Based Equivalents and Their Values

1- Minimal Achievement          50-69         1- = 50, 1 = 60, 1+=69
2- Satisfactory Achievement         70-89          2- = 70, 2 = 79, 2+ = 89
3- Distinguished Achievement         90-100      3- = 90, 3 = 95, 3+ = 100

Low to High achievements, such as 50-60 as 1- will be explained as we discuss your progress through the course, including both General Education and Discipline abilities. Each span comes with + and – degrees. For example 2+ is equivalent to an 89.


The Major Evaluation Elements (longer explanations can be found further below)

The Journal
The fiction writing journal, you could also call this a commonplace book, is a collection of habitual observations and notes on elements of story and narrative; it forms a companion to the fiction writing portfolio. When you submit your portfolio, you will also submit the journal. The journal is about developing ideas, playing with things, experimenting; it’s about not knowing where you’re going; its about play. The structure of the journal will be built on your own efforts to collect and organize ideas and story elements, ideas relevant to craft, elements such as description and plotting, and observations you make during the semester on the subject. You should organize the journal by entry time, date, and month. You may use digital tools such as weblogs to maintain the journal. You should use the journal as a means of developing stories and other fictions that will eventually find their way into the Portfolio. See Journal specifics below.

The Portfolio
The mid and end-of-semester portfolio  will include original work that demonstrates a craft process, the items that you think reveal your best work and method to date, and the range of work, including working drafts, revisions, and final copy. Much of the work included in the Portfolio may come from the writing journal and its observations, experiments, and notes. The portfolio must be comprehensive, including all work with story types and exercises.  Generally we work both on long and short fictions. Stories in progress prior to the semester should not be included in the portfolio. See portfolio instructions below.

Weekly Story Exercises
If you’re serious about developing story writing skills, then you have to write a lot (See this project for context: 100 Days Project). At the beginning of every Wednesday session, you’ll submit a short short or flash story. This story should be between 50 and 200 words in length. This is not a formal submission but should net you about 14 completed narratives.

These stories, as the semester progresses, will begin to relate to images provided by a linked art course. Students in the art course will submit pieces of their own work, and the short, flash fictions will respond to those pieces of art. In this way, we’ll start a creative dialogue with another mode of creative expression. More explanation will come as this aspect of things develops.

The Journal

What is it
The journal is a spiral notebook, simple, easy to carry around, that accompanies the portfolio (see next section) when an evaluation is made available to you. The journal should always be turned in with the portfolio and is indicated on Calendar as a part of a formal submission.

Method
The journal should contain a variety of materials such as sample descriptions of objects and spaces you find interesting, smatterings of dialogue, plays with conflict and complication, interesting photographs, general philosophizing about life if it is made relevant to story, lists of story ideas, character profiles, and whatever else might be useful for the fiction writer. Note that the journal must be an 8 by 11 spiral-bound notebook. The only alternative replacement for this spiral notebook is a weblog. See WordPress as an example.

In this course we’re going to talk a lot about technique and fiction writing elements, so the journal is a “place” to practice what we preach. Make lots of entries of sample descriptions of places where stories might be set (i.e., story worlds, scenes).  Practice developing characters in the journal, writing lists if names and characteristics, wardrobes. Leave room for sketching description of “objects” so that you can practice specific language, the active vs. passive voice; showing vs. telling; narration vs. comment.

Here’s a list of things the journal should cover:

1. Dialogue practice
2. Character detailing
3. Worlds
4. Description
5. Conflict types or different types of entanglement
6. Plot overviews
7. Deep thoughts/shallow thoughts
8. Story exercises: here’s a story about a hand, for example
9. Drawings and comment on them
10. Photographs and comment on them
11. Maps
12. Brainstorming
13. Story ideas

The journal should be organized by date followed by an entry, much like a diary. You should work on the journal often, carrying it in the car, positioning it within easy reach at work, kept by your bedside at night for quick grasp and draft.

The Portfolio

What is it?
There are many types of portfolios. There’s the Process Portfolio and the Product Portfolio. In this course you will be working on a hybrid type that merges both process and product. Ultimately, the portfolio tells me what you are learning in the course and what you have learned—all in terms of abilities. The portfolio demonstrates that you are working on the stories that the course expects of you. Since the portfolio reveals “learning,” you include whatever work in it you think demonstrates course abilities. If a portfolio is presented to me with very little work in it, then very little will be demonstrated from the portfolio.

The Thing Itself

The Portfolio should be packaged in a pocket folder. It should include:

  1. 3 mid-length short stories that add to 20 pages of total new writing
  2. Several shorter practice works (weekly story exercises) of 50 to 200 words in length each (3 of the best)
  3. A creative journal

Mid-semester evaluation

The mid-semester portfolio should contain examples of two stories in progress. This portfolio should be submitted with your writing journal on the day indicated on the Course Calendar. The portfolio should be presented in a pocket folder with your name written on it.

End-of-Semester Evaluation

The semester closing portfolio should contain 20 “finished” pages minimum of three or more examples of fiction that you have been working on over the course of the semester, including substantial draft material. Note on Amount: This 20 pages may not be “one” story but several. The stories should show a range of work given the models and techniques with which we’ve been working. One story cannot demonstrate in mature fashion that you understand the elements of fiction writing.

The Creative Writing Workshop

What is it?
We will be doing lots of work shopping in this course so you’ll probably want to know what this means. The workshop is a way of applying what you learn in this course about reading and writing fiction. Basically, on preassigned days, we come together in class and critique student writing. Stories are distributed prior to workshop, read, then discussed among the group. Stories should be studied prior to the days we discuss them.

Why workshop?
We distribute and discuss student writing because it provides an audience for the writer and gives the writer feedback and insight into how people react to what’s on the page “as is.” Feedback is important to all writers, thus the workshop provides an opportunity for reader response. It’s a good time for the writer to listen to what people have to say, weigh certain opinions, and put together a plan for revision. In most writing courses the evaluator plays the role of audience. In creative writing, the entire class becomes the audience; everyone reads and has the opportunity to provide feedback to the author. In addition, the workshop is also a time for students to practice speaking about fiction using relevant, useful, and appropriate terminology.

How to Submit
Stories entered into the workshop pool come from voluntary submissions. Anyone who wants feedback may submit. Stories will be sent to me digitally for download or copied by the student and brought to class.  Stories should be submitted a week prior to workshop. Typically, I’ll make a page on the website and stories will be made available there.

Workshop Technique
Stories submitted for critique in the workshop are assumed to be drafts in need of assistance. The workshop isn’t there for praising the writer; it exists for the express purpose of critiquing stories. When a story comes up for submission, we sit down and get to business. Here’s how we do it:

1. The writer is present only to listen and write notes. The writer is never invited to speak, explain, or clear up a problem with the story.
2. The first thing we talk about is whether the story is indeed a “story.” This is why we talk a lot about “story” when we discuss models. What are the elements of structure, narrative, plot, and conflict/resolution that suffer or work?
3. Other issues: point of view; description; setting; dialogue, narrative elements and arc; complication; continuity; characterization; conflict and resolution.  Does the story ground the reader in place and setting; does the POV have continuity; does description appeal to the senses; is the POV character dynamic, wooden, flat, uni-dimensional; is dialogue dramatic or banal; is the conflict/complication progressive?

Things that Hinder Workshop
In order for students to benefit from workshop, we must have material. Thus, from the start I will be pushing for drafts and volunteers. Students who fail to pick up stories and read them prior to the workshop should not come to class “seeking the drafts under discussion” as this is a distraction. If a student who submitted work for discussion fails to attend, then that writer’s work will be pushed to the back of the schedule.

How Does the Workshop Relate the Portfolio?
Drafts submitted for workshop typically come as first drafts (but they shouldn’t be brainstorms or initial drafts). How a student chooses to rewrite or revise based on the feedback that comes from the workshop informs the writing that follows. Thus, the draft and rewritten copy of a story are entered into the portfolio as an example of “learning.” Recall that the portfolio reveals what you are learning, what you’ve learned, and how your work changes throughout the course.

Standards of Evaluation for the course:

Journal

Portfolio

Stories