A while back, a friend of mine recommended MasterClass - a series of online courses delivered by world-leading experts.
Since then, several of the writing classes have popped up my Facebook feed, but none inspired me to click until Joyce Carol Oates appeared, promising to deliver fourteen classes on the art of the short story. With lesson titles like 'exploring taboo and darkness', I was hooked.
I've signed up to a year's access to all of the masterclass courses, which means that once I've completed the series with Joyce Carol Oates I can move on to courses delivered by other luminaries such as David Mamet, Judy Blume and Margaret Atwood.
Each lesson comes with a video lecture, a PDF, exercises and other resources. There's also opportunity to connect in with other learners.
Lesson one: Introduction
- A short introduction to the series. The videos are beautifully produced. You feel as though you are in Joyce's Princeton's office with her, having a one-on-one tutorial.
Lesson two: Principles of writing short fiction
- Start with a character. Something happens to your character, and that starts the story. People are mysterious. What secrets does your character have? What have they left unexplored about their life? What are the climactic moments in their life? Will you choose to tell a story about one of those moments?
- I learned a new word: Synecdoche. A figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa. Examples from common English expressions include "suits" (for "businessmen") and "America" (for "the United States of America". (From Wikipedia.)
- We are introduced to Edgar Allan Poe's The Philosophy of Composition. Poe says, " It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention."
- Joyce talks about the difference between telling a story transparently and using language itself to tell the story. I think, possibly because of my background in communications, that I write more on the 'transparent' side. I could work on using language more creatively to add layers of meaning.
- The lesson notes refer learners to Virginia Woolf's essay A Room of One's Own, which I had actually never read before. What I have read so far is wonderful, and the rest I will listen to on audio book.
That's a lot more homework than we had in the first session!
I am going to give myself a tick for the fifth exercise because I regularly seek feedback on my work.
I'll report back on the rest of the homework in my next MasterClass post!