Powerful Narration in Creative Writing

Creating powerful narration out of personal experiences is the fundamental challenge of all writing. Whether we are listening to a friend, watching a Netflix show, or reading a short story, we often wonder: did things really happen this way? How plausible are the facts being narrated? How much of this story do I ultimately choose to believe? How can we make our readers feel, relive, and understand the importance of our encounters, places we’ve been, or abstract ideas we’ve cherished?  

Learn how to recognize and implement the essential elements of strong fiction writing in your own work. Through discussions on craft, in-class writing exercises, and guest lectures from Duke professors and Durham-based writers and poets, you will learn the mechanics of short stories’ essential components, such as theme, voice, character development, pacing, exposition, and scene-setting.  

Hone how to interview a subject multiple times to understand that subject’s personal experience. Then you will use these interviews to identify the arc of a possible short story and the story’s main characters and setting.  

To train your instinct as a writer and sharpen your sensibility, you will visit the Rubenstein Arts Center and select an artwork (a photograph, a painting, or a sculpture) to be used as a creative prompt. Engage with primary sources collected in Duke University Library’s exceptional archives. These include the papers of acclaimed writers Allen Gurganus, William Syaron, and Anne Tyler, among others.