Instructor: Kerry Brian Ingram Time: 2: 00-4: 20, Wednesday Location

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Introduction To Fiction Writing

Fall 2015

(Section 32649)
Instructor: Kerry Brian Ingram

Time: 2:00-4:20, Wednesday

Location: Room 105, Taper Hall

Office Hours: Wed. 10:00-1:00

(or by appointment)

Office Location: 410 Taper Hall


English 303 is a fiction workshop providing an introduction to the techniques and practices of prose fiction. Upon completion of this course, students should be able to identify the mechanics and principles of fiction and demonstrate the ability to employ established techniques. Emphasis is placed on craft issues such as characterization, point of view, narrative structure, style and voice. Students must compose original fiction, read stories and instructional materials and comment precisely and logically on the work of classmates. At the end of the semester, each student will prepare a portfolio of fictional narratives for potential publication.

TEXTS: What If?--Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, 3rd Edition

by Anne Bernays/Pam Painter

The Story and Its Writer, 8th
Edition by Ann Charters
Additional Reading Requirements: Various Handouts

Writing Requirements

You will be required to create one original short story (10 pages or more) and to revise it after the workshop discussing it. You will also complete three more story drafts, based on the many writing exercises we explore in class and at home. A completed story draft means this: it has a beginning, a middle and an end. In addition, you will be required to write one page of comments on each workshopped story. One copy goes to me, the other to the writer. You should also mark the manuscript with comments throughout. At the end of the semester, you will prepare one story for submission in a literary journal or contest.
In-class participation is crucial in order to succeed in this class. If you are absent, the reading quizzes, the missed instruction, class exercises, and workshop critiques will almost certainly affect the grade. Moreover, merely being present does not automatically count as participation. Do your reading and come with ideas and questions for discussion. If an emergency does come up, you will still be responsible for work assigned during that absence. Consequently, you should arrange to get any missed handouts, homework, or new story materials from me or from another student. The best workshop is an exercise in mutual goodwill and serious discussion of storytelling methods.

Please, no late stories. Writers meet deadlines, and we’re on a tight schedule. Timely submission of stories is crucial so that classmates can provide useful critiques (a part of their grade!). You will pass out hard copies on the Wednesday before your assigned workshop. Subsequently, missing the day you picked for workshop is not an option.

Keep in mind that class starts on time. Excessive tardiness will affect your participation grade.
Conferences. At least once during the semester (more if you want), I will arrange an individual conference with each student to address questions and interests concerning craft and ideas about completing the stories.
Laptops can be used during in-class compositions only IF the assignment is to be completed at home.
Grading Breakdown
1) Participation/Completion of In-class Writing Exercises/Quizzes/Responses to

Assigned Reading. 250 points

2) Typed comments on stories of classmates; one copy for me, one for the

author. Minimum: one page, double spaced. 250 points

3) Submission of a finished story for workshop. 250 points
4) Revision of the workshop story. 250 points
5) Submission of three additional, complete story drafts you have decided not to submit

for workshop, all based on exercises in class. 250 points

Writing Is Rewriting

In other words, your job is often to re-imagine your first drafts in a new, more interesting way, one that you genuinely prefer. The many methods of doing just that are what we’ll spend the semester exploring. Once you determine which beginnings are most important to you, your job is to NOT STOP until you have rendered your best version of that story. Among the four works for your final end-of-the-semester portfolio, one of which you will have officially workshopped and revised, you will choose one for official submission to a journal or contest.


(This course outline, with the exception of the story due dates, is tentative. Additional reading and/or substitutions will be the rule, based on your stylistic choices and your individual needs. Use the outline to organize study plans, but check in with me in every class, and stay up-to-date. Any changes to this schedule will be announced at the beginning and at the end of the appropriate classes).

8/26 Introduction. Syllabus.

In-class Writing: Biographical Questions

First Narrative: Person/Place/Song (23/Bernays)

Assignment: Read “The Elements of Fiction” (1726/Charters)

“Hands” by Sherwood Anderson (49/Charters)

“Wants” by Grace Paley (281/Bernays)

“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara (82/Charters)

Find a Photograph

9/2 Exercise: Found Photograph Narratives

Learning To Lie (Handout)

Characterization Exercise: “That Kind of Person” (33 Charters)

Reading assignment: “Television” by Lydia Davis (381/Charters)

“A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by O’Connor (1042/Charters)

“On The Road” by Langston Hughes (Handout)

Grace Paley (Multiple stories/1096/Charters)

9/09 So, What Happened?--Read Lies/Truths

Setting and Physical Description

Reading Assignment: “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver (191/Charters)

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane (359/Charters)

9/16 First Person Versus Third Person

In-class: “20/20” by Linda Brewer (273/Bernays)

“The Discuss Thrower” by Richard Selzer (Handout)

In-class: Start and Finish. 750-word Stories

Reading: “Where Is This Voice Coming From?” by Eudora Welty (Handout)

“Powder” by Tobias Wolff (1388/Charters)

Homework: Writer 1 and 2 submit
9/23 Critique 750-Word Stories/Rules of The Workshop

Discuss Reading Assignments/Chapters

Reading: TBA

Workshop Critique of Stories 1 and 2 (stories 3 and 4 due)

9/30 Narrative Distance

Three Emotions/Three Paragraphs

Time and Pace (145 Bernays)

Handouts: “Sudden Story” by R. Coover

“A Day’s Wait” by Ernest Hemingway

“No One’s a Mystery” by Elizabeth Tallent (284/Bernays)

Workshop Critique of Stories 3 and 4 (stories 5 and 6 due)
10/07 Opening Up Your Story (199/Charters)

OR What if?--Turning Situation into Characterization

Homework: Finish Your Lists and Your Story

Homework: “That Kind of Person”

Workshop stories 5 and 6 (stories 7 and 8 due)
10/14 Workshop Stories 7 and 8 (stories 9 and 10 due)

In class writing: Changing your life

Individual Reading Assignments that lead to….: (TBA)

10/21 Individual Reading and Writing Assignments

10/28 Workshop Stories 9 and 10 (stories 11 and 12 due)

Reading Assignment:

“In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel (545/Charters)
11/04 Workshop stories 11 and 12

Exercise: List of Likes and Dislikes

Reading Assignments: TBA
11/11 In class: “Changing Your Life” (First Person Narrative)

Reading assignment: TBA

11/18 How to Submit to Magazines, Contests and Writing Conferences

Essay: “Writing In The Cold” by Ted Solotoroff

Essay: “The Writing Habit” by David Huddle

Investigate Your Local Resources

12/2 Final First Drafts

In-class Conferences: Review of All Revisions
12/11 (2:00) Final Exam = Final Submission of Portfolios: Two workshopped revisions and three completed story drafts based on in-class exercises. Cover letters with addressed envelops are also due.

Statement for Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Website and contact info. for DSP:, (213) 740-0776 (Phone), (213) 740-6948 (TDD only), (213) 740-8216 (FAX)

Statement on Academic Integrity

USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. SCampus, the Student Guidebook, ( or contains the University Student Conduct Code (see University Governance, Section 11.00), while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A.

Emergency Preparedness/Course Continuity in a Crisis

In case of a declared emergency if travel to campus is not feasible, USC executive leadership will announce an electronic way for instructors to teach students in their residence halls or homes using a combination of Blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technologies.

Student Behavior that persistently or grossly interferes with classroom activities is considered disruptive behavior and may be subject to disciplinary action. Such behavior inhibits other students’ ability to learn and an instructor’s ability to teach. A student responsible for disruptive behavior may be required to leave class pending discussion and resolution of the problem and may be reported to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs for disciplinary action. These strictures may extend to behaviors outside the classroom that are related to the course.

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