LITR 3731: Creative Writing

Lecture Notes

3rd class on Fiction


assignments & handouts

fiction: Jackie, Karina




reading highlight:

genres > fiction basics:



Thursday, 22 October: Fiction workshop + discussion of reading assignments

Reading assignment: ch. 14 (pp. 167-174); ch. 15 (pp. 175-181)

Reading highlight: J J Torres

1st Fiction Author: Jackie Baker

1st fiction Author’s Discussion Leader: Karina Ramos

Thursday, 29 October: Fiction workshop + discussion of reading assignments

Reading assignmentThree Genres, ch. 17 (pp. 189-198); ch. 18 (pp. 199-208)

Reading highlight: Marcus Austin

1st Fiction Author:  Paul Acevedo

1st fiction Author’s Discussion Leader: Peter Becnel

Thursday, 5 November: Fiction workshop + discussion of reading assignments

Reading assignmentThree Genres, ch. 19 "Escapes" (pp. 209-216); ch. 20 "Creating Tension" (pp. 217-225)

Reading highlight: Jennifer M. Leonard

1st Fiction Author: Karina Ramos

1st fiction Author’s Discussion Leader: Jackie Baker

Thursday, 12 November: Fiction workshop + discussion of reading assignments

Reading assignmentThree Genres, ch. 22 (pp. 238-246)

Reading highlight: Karina Ramos

1st Fiction Author: Jeff Derrickson

1st fiction Author’s Discussion Leader: Amanda Pruett

2nd Fiction Author: Jennifer M. Leonard

2nd fiction Author’s Discussion Leader: Jackie Baker & Alicia Costello



Effect and organization of poetry and fiction < numbers and types of voices


1. form of fiction (compare-contrast lyric poetry and drama)

"genres"—types or classes of literature


(last week's reading assignment)

145 three types of prose writing: factual, creative, and creative nonfiction

149 plot: conventions, formulas [add elements]


So genres are types, kinds or classes of literature (or art, music, etc.)

What are the identifying marks or signs of a genre?





can be challenged, varied, or broken


genres can go stale > jazz up, refresh


genre = contract with the reader






Lyric poetry = what most people call "poetry"

but also narrative poetry, lyric poetry, epic poetry


lyric: intense impression < single voice (usually one speaker "sings" the poem, like a song on the radio--plenty of exceptions to rule)





Fiction: moments of intensity, but effects are more varied, less centrally focused < more than one speaker: narrator + dialogue of characters




Fiction discussion

Many different meanings, ways to interpret poetry and fiction

Everyone needs to learn something, but de-emphasize "rules" for sake of learning process, life-time learning, good learning habits and models

Compared to other areas, literature teachers or language practitioners do not so much provide rules and answers (though we're supposed to know more about language), but to help people use language ask questions, express insights, and discuss answers.

Difficult approach for "teaching to the test" but more important to civilization

Can defend testing and accountability in terms of minimal skills

But some resources and efforts have to go beyond minimal > leadership, imagination toward a better society

Literature and language teachers can't make that better society happen by themselves, but language and literature classes are often the only places where young people ever get a glimpse of another reality.








Three Genres, ch. 14 (pp. 167-174). A story by Stephen Minot. “Sausage and Beer”


173 sausage cf. storymaking





ch. 15 (pp. 175-181). The making of a story: a case history


175 past, many drafts


175 (cf. sausage)


175 more proficient > less satisfied with early drafts


176 memory of own life


176 combination of emotions, odd mix of fascination, revulsion, & fear


176 language of insane, x-invention


176 start of story: not abstract concept but experience


176 complex relationship

unusual setting

contradictory emotions


177 mother, not father

takes pressure off

major transformations > delicious discovery

echo of actual experience: 13th birthday


178 revision, an unending process


To cultivate the attitude that each “draft” or “manuscript” presented or submitted is always a “work in progress.”


178 x- 1 word changes


178 adding, deleting whole paragraphs and pages


178 ? personal involvement by editors


178 6th draft = perfect = common delusion


178 cutting blocks of material is painful > Lost Gems file


179 revision of Tender is the Night


179 3 minor changes annihilated 40 years of history


179 borrowing and stealing


180 initial memory

borrowed memories

pure invention

? “based on personal experience”


180 continuity and consistency


internal consistency



181 imagine self as new reader




























Review earlier class on poetry > fiction

1. form of fiction (compare-contrast lyric poetry and drama)

2. fiction as fact or invention / lies > truth?

3. art / literature as imitation & reshaping of life, reality




2. fiction as fact or invention / lies > truth?

Chapter 13: Where Stories come from

145 experiences, details from real life > reshape: divide , mix, alter, transform

145 select what we need and invent the rest


3. art is imitation & reshaping of life, reality

Classical idea from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle: Art is an imitation of reality.

146 real life: jumble of unconnected events and repetitious activities

147 edit unconsciously [humans are story-telling creatures--we can do this without thinking about it--but can get better with thinking about it]



conclusion: Literature may not be as real as reality, but it can be more true than reality

denser, richer, more intense than everyday life


Minot's changes in what really happened > "Sausages and Beer"

176 memory of own life

176 combination of emotions, odd mix of fascination, revulsion, & fear [when you make something completely up, your emotions become predictable—reality is stranger and richer than our power to invent—but we can rearrange]

176 language of insane, x-invention

177 mother, not father

takes pressure off

major transformations > delicious discovery



 Viewpoint, point of view, perspective

189 viewpoint, point of view, means of perception, [perspective]

viewpoint does not equal attitude


189 1st person = I

190 third person [limited]


190 increases readers’ sense of identification

190 maintains suspense

191 deliberate withholding of information


 By preferring first person and third person limited, Minot again shows his preference for "literary" creative writing, not "popular"

In popular fiction, "third person omniscient" is still popular


Paragraphs on subject from my book on Cooper 


Today’s tastes in literary fiction discount third-person omniscient viewpoint in favor of more limited perspectives like “first person” and “third-person limited.” With their internal views, these limited styles expose deeper psychological identities and conflicts. In contrast, “omniscient” or “all-seeing” view may appear old-fashioned and shallow. Along with first-person style, omniscient perspective dominated the early novel, with third-person limited perspective developing later. Yet third-person omniscient viewpoint remains standard for mass-market fiction—e. g., The Da Vinci Code or The Hunt for Red October—which rapidly shifts perspective from one character or scene to another like a movie camera. For later readers this resemblance between Cooper’s viewpoint and cinema remains one of the author’s greatest appeals.

Third-person omniscient also succeeds with populous social scenes in which characters’ speech and gestures declare their identities and, to an extent, their inner states of mind. Cooper found this style comfortable for novels of manners like Precaution and The Spy. In Pathfinder he relocates it to the frontier of North America. The novel’s richest social scene is a “shooting match” at Fort Oswego. Like medieval ladies at jousting tournaments in Scott’s Ivanhoe, the spectators—officers’ wives, Mabel, and the common soldiers’ wives—seat themselves on planks according to “the etiquette of rank” (XI). Everything glitters, but all is witnessed from outside.

By 1840, however, fashions in literature were changing. As fiction matured, perspective became more personal. “Third-person limited” point of view focuses selectively on the internal consciousness of individuals. Fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne such as The Scarlet Letter influenced this style’s development. Abandoning the omniscient’s wide scope, limited viewpoint deepens psychological intensity. The resulting ambiguities appeal to modern tastes for irony and self-deception.


Hard to summarize fiction b/c multi-voiced

"Novel theorists" defend fiction as best imitation of modern reality

modern reality is multi-voiced > novel automatically multi-voiced (narrator + characters in dialogue, each expressing a different take on the world)

poems make you feel, open up your heart-mind to totally new impressions

fiction makes you see or experience reality from different angles, perspectives

Preview final exam: what are you learning? About creative writing, teaching it, or both?