Course code:



M - Intermediate

Class size limit:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster differentiated between “story” and “plot,” defining a story as “a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence” and plot as also a narrative of events but with “the emphasis falling on causality.” The king died and then the queen died. That’s a story. The king died and then the queen died of grief. That’s a plot. Of course, not everyone agrees. Grace Paley claimed, “Plot is nothing; the plot is simply a timeline.” Edna O’Brien offered a blunter assessment: “F**** the plot! That is for precocious school boys.” Many creative writing classrooms have embraced O’Brien’s denigration of plot. When plot is dealt with, if it is dealt with at all, it is done as a means to an end. And yet it is plot and hang-ups about it that often prevent developing fiction writers from finishing promising stories. Inspiration only carries you so far. As Toni Morrison said, “Art appears natural and elegant only as a result of constant practice and awareness of its formal structures.” And so this is what we will do–spend ten weeks examining the structure of short stories that present a range of strategies for plot. But we won’t stop there. Students will write and workshop three of their own short stories, intentionally experimenting with plotted and “plotless” structures. Students will not be evaluated on the quality of their short stories, as judging that is often quite arbitrary. We will employ a labor-based grading system that puts emphasis on your engagement with assignments and participation in group writing sessions designed to help students create a sustainable writing practice.


Prior work in literature/creative writing or a discussion with the instructor about where they are in their writing.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.