Syllabus  Introduction to Creative Writing
CRW 2001—B52  Intro to Creative Writing—Professor James W. Hall
Spring term 2013,  5:00-7:40

Class #1, January 10th  
Sketch out the semester.
Meet the mentors. 
Assign students to mentors.
What is Creative Writing?
Banana ladder.  Nouns.
“Hills Like White Elephants”  (Discuss first page)

Diagnostic writing: a one page biography.  Describe the highlights of your history so far. 

Reading assignment for week 2:
Read the rest of “Hills Like White Elephants”

Writing Assignment for week 2, Two parts.

            A.  Write a summary of what happens emotionally in Hills.
             B. Write 1-2 pages, double-space, 80-90% dialog.  Just enough non-dialog so we know where we
                 are and who's on stage.  Try to accomplish all of the following:
            1)   Set the stage as quickly and with as few words as possible.  Use 10 concrete nouns.  Objects.
    Make sure we know: who, what, when and where)
2)   Minimal tag lines.  (If you can make it clear who’s talking without saying ‘he said’ or ‘Mary said’ do it.  Don’t use any other tag beside “said.”)
3)   Two people talking.  One trying to convince the other of doing something.
4)   The other person resists.  But eventually caves.
5)   At least one time, respond to a question with a question.
6)   At least one time, one person doesn’t understand what the other is saying.
7)   Have one person use a word the other person has just used.
8)   Have one person completely redirect the conversation, change subject radically.
9)   The other forces things back on topic.
10) A third person speaks briefly
11)  Some minimal physical action interspersed throughout the dialog.

Class #2, January 17th

1)   Read some student-written dialog aloud in class.  Class will tweak it.
2)   Discuss the rest of “Hills Like White Elephants”
3)   In-class writing.  Describe a place in one page.  At least 15 nouns.
4)   Read some and critique.

Assignment for class #3, January 24:

Reading:  A&P, John Updike (found on Blog under Fiction tab, number 1 position)  Print the story, and bring to class.  Underline 3 examples of exposition in the story.

Writing assignment: 

1)    Write an opening scene of 2-3 pages.  Up to 750 words. 
2)    Make sure you touch on each of the following:
3)    Who is the protagonist?
4)    What does your protagonist want?  The specific thing and the general thing.  For example:  she wants a car, because she wants to escape from some painful situation.  Or she wants to build her muscles because she wants to be strong enough to defend herself against someone.
5)    Who is the antagonist?  This is the person who is making it difficult for the protagonist.
6)    What’s the setting?  Show us the place.  Make it vivid, unique and somehow relevant to the conflict that the character has.
7)    Use a little exposition (but only a little) to fill in something about the character’s past.

Look under the Miscellaneous Tab for some tips about the overall shape of a short story.

--> January 24th Class #3
1)    Discuss A&P 
a.     Differences between scene and exposition
b.     Focus on details—what do they reveal?
c.     Body language
2)    Ed does section on body language; in-class writing
3)    Workshop stories—What does character want?  Specific and general.  Who is the antagonist?  What is the setting?  Exposition?
Assignment for Class #4, January 31st
1)    Written:  rewrite opening scene incorporating editorial comments; make sure you use the word want or some synonym for it within the first paragraph; use some example of body language that suggests the feelings of a character without stating those feelings directly; and write no more than one paragraph of exposition about your main character’s past.  Add another 250-500 words, around 2 pages.
2)    Read:  “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (under the fiction tab)  and write a paragraph about what the grandmother wants in the story, and why she wants it.

January 31st, Class #4
1)    Discuss “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
2)    Two graduate student lessons.
3)    Workshop stories.
Assignment for Class #5, February 7th
1)    Written:  Add a second scene to the opening.  In this scene make your character’s life a little more complicated.  Give them a new hurdle which grows out of what they’ve done in the opening scene.  The total word count by this week should be around 1,000 words, or roughly 4 manuscript pages.
2)    Read:  “How I Met My Husband” by Alice Munro (under the fiction tab) and write a paragraph about what the character wants in this story.  Hint: it has something to do with why she puts on the fancy dress.

February 7th, Class #5
1)    Discuss “How I Met My Husband”
2)    Discuss the plot in the story, the causal connections between events
3)    Two graduate student lessons
4)    Workshop stories.
Assignment for Class #6, February 14th
1)    Written:  Add a third scene of around 2 pages. (500 words)  A new location.  A new complication.  The entire story at this point should total between 1500-2000 words, or 6-8 manuscript pages.

February 14th, Class #6
1)    Workshop all student stories
2)    Hand-out Junot Diaz story for final class in fiction.
Assignment for class #7
1)    Written:  Add another scene.  New location.  A complication that grows naturally out of what has come before.  Domino.  The entire story at this point should be between 8-10 pages.  Around 2500 words.  It should contain three distinct scenes.  Different times, different locations.
2)    Read:  A Perfect Day for Banana Fish, J.D. Salinger (under the fiction tab)

February 21st, Class #7
1)    Discuss  A Perfect Day for Banana Fish (short quiz, graded)
2)    Workshop a few of final stories
3)    For your final portfolio, you have the option to rewrite the material you’ve already submitted (a substantial revision), incorporating suggestions and critiques and copy edits you received during workshops.  Or you may rewrite the material you’ve already written and complete the story, bringing it to some kind of end in which your central character (the protagonist) changes in some way.  Realizing something about herself and putting that realization into a final action of some kind. (this is what’s known as an epiphany

If you decide to bring your story to a conclusion, you will receive extra credit.

Assignment for class # 8
1.     Read the poems under poetry tab on the website and be prepared to discuss.
2.     Written:  write a paragraph about one of the poems, describing what you think or feel about it.
3.     Written:  using one of the poems, count the syllables in each line and write that number down at the end of each line, and have that with you for class.
4.     Write a poem of at least 10 lines.  Use at least 10 concrete nouns.  (bananas) 
5.     POEM #1

February 28th, Class #8
1.     Introduction to poetry, Prof. Hall
2.     In-class exercises.
3.     Discuss the poems for the week.
4.     Look at some of class poems.
March 7th, Class #9  POEM #2  Faby discusses metaphor; Carly presents poems
Assignment for Class #10:  
1) Poem #1:  
a) each line should start with the letter of your name:
This passage spells out JIM.

Jump up into the sky
In time to catch the eagle
Make each jump higher 

b) Each line should contain the same number of syllables, choose a number from 6 to 11 and make each line that same length.

c)  Slant rhyme, off-rhyme.  We discussed several different examples, repeating vowel sounds and repeating consonant sounds.  For simplicity sake use the final consonant sound.  So that dark rhymes with lake.  Or big rhymes with slug.

2)  Poem #2  Use an extended metaphor throughout.  A=B, or as in the Linda Pastan poem, the parachutist coming back to earth=a woman calming down after a blissful or orgasmic experience.
Try not to be too explicit about the B, but give us some sneaky words as Pastan does: breast, sheets, sensual, that could apply to both the A side, the parachute, and the B side, the return to normal consciousness.

March 14th, SPRING BREAK

March 21st, Class #10  POEM #3, Carly discusses forms, Kacee presents poems
Assignment for Class #11:  Sonnet or other fixed form.  

March 28th, Class #11  POEM #4, Kacee discusses narrative/lyrical, Jen presents poems
Assignment for Class #12:  

April 4th, Class #12  POEM #5, Ed discusses prose poems, Faby presents poems

April 11th, Class #13  POEM #6, Jen discusses slam/word poetry, Ed presents poems

April 18th, Class #14  FINAL CLASS, PORTFOLIOS DUE (The story opening rewritten or story completed.)  (7 POEMS, revised with original versions)  Self-addressed stamped envelope.

Upcoming classes:
1.     imagery
2.     simile and metaphor
3.     emotion/sentimentality
4.     words/sounds of words
5.     musical techniques
6.     meter/rhythm
7.     prose poems/or sonnets or other forms
8.     narrative/lyrical
9.     slam/word/
10.   Other

Grading Procedures:


Consistent emotional depth, complexity, maturity.  Stylistic excellence, clear writing, free of cliché, with effective and imaginative use of language, i.e. a natural use of imagery, figures of speech and musically charged.  Three dimensional characters.  A coherent plot or narrative structure.  A compelling thematic issue with relevant and vivid detail.  Constructive and insightful comments.  Ongoing development throughout semester.


Capable of emotional complexity.  Only minor stylistic problems.  Infrequent use of cliches or hackneyed characters or situations.  Fresh imagery, clear, precise sentence-making, strong characters with believable motivations and speech that has a natural sound.  Shows a good ear for the rhythm of language and uses imagery that is original and effective.  Good classroom participation.  Thorough critiques of other student writing.  Active engagement.  A positive improvement in writing skills during term.


A tendency to rely on trite, formulaic, or clichéd situations, characters and emotions.  Language that is frequently unclear because of problems with grammar, syntax or poor diction.  Flat, predictable characters, storylines and emotional situations. Tendency to generalize.  Little or no progress during the semester. No new skills acquired.


Work is consistently superficial, cliched and/or obscure.  A reliance on vague language, poorly constructed images, shallow emotional situations and characters.  No sense of the musicality of language.  An unwillingness or inability to successfully revise.  Failure to turn in all assignments.  Silent or disruptive in class.  A spotty attendance record.  No progress during the semester.


All the characteristics of a D student plus excessive absences and no sign whatsoever of an attempt to master the subject or to improve.

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