This year, Odyssey Writing Workshops is offering three different online courses covering some of the most critical issues for developing writers:
Course Meets: January 2 – 30, 2013
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 7, 2012
When we first offered this course in 2011, we received more interest than in any course taught before or since. So we’re offering it again, to provide more writers the chance to learn the exciting possibilities inherent in this plot structure. One of the greatest weaknesses of developing writers is plot. One of the best tools for strengthening plot is the act. Plotting in acts creates a more suspenseful, unpredictable, and emotionally satisfying experience for the reader. This course will start by defining key units of structure–the scene, chapter, and act–and explore why we need acts. We’ll discuss the effect of acts, the importance of acts, how acts work in short fiction and novels, and how acts are used in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. How does one identify an act? When are three acts appropriate? Why are three acts so popular and powerful? We’ll learn how to plot in three acts. We’ll explore what makes a strong three-act plot and what makes a weak three-act plot. We’ll look at powerful methods and weak methods of ending an act. We’ll explore how to create a causal chain that generates escalations and a strong climax, how subplots work within three-act structure, the connection between structure and character transformation, and the unifying role of theme.
Course Meets: January 7 – February 4, 2013
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 11, 2012
Barbara Ashford believes the most important skill a novelist needs is to be able to see the “big picture” of the novel, to understand where that big picture is lacking or weak, and to make the major changes necessary to create a coherent, complete, powerful, and unified novel. Barbara believes this skill made all the difference in her writing, transforming it from promising but unsalable to compelling and published. Writers often approach revisions as an opportunity to polish their manuscripts rather than to take a hard look at the story itself. If your plot meanders and your protagonist’s goals are unclear, polishing your prose won’t help. This course examines the “big picture” elements at the foundation of every novel: premise, promise, theme, world, character, and plot. Whether you’ve already completed your first draft, are still working on it, or are struggling with revisions, analyzing and strengthening those elements can lift your novel out of the slush pile and onto an agent’s desk. Award-nominated author Barbara Ashford will examine each of these big picture elements and the ways that linking them can create a unified, compelling, powerful story. Through lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, students will analyze their premise, the promise that the novel is making to readers, the themes that arise from the novel, the world they have created, their protagonists’ backstory, motivations, and goals, and the plot events they have chosen to lead the reader from the story’s promise to its climax.
Course Meets: January 23 – February 20, 2013
Instructor: Elaine Isaak
Application Deadline: December 27, 2012
“If you will try being fictional for a while, you will find that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”
In her critiques as a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and as a critiquer for the Odyssey Critique Service, Elaine Isaak has become legendary for identifying weaknesses in character and suggesting brilliant yet simple ways to strengthen characters. This course will help you to develop a clearer sense of what makes a powerful character and will teach you the techniques you need to develop strong characters. The first duty of the fiction writer is to make the reader care about people that don’t exist. In this course, we’ll talk about how to create the core of a sympathetic character and bring that character to life through words so that the reader invests in the dreams and challenges of your imagined people. Students will study and discuss examples, perform exercises to practice creating sympathetic and believable characters, and write short-shorts that put these new skills into practice. Students will also provide critiques of their classmates’ work.
PLEASE NOTE: Those application deadlines are coming up soon! If you would like to apply for more than one course, you must apply separately for each one.