Syllabus for Writing Course

Week One: PLOT

Anagnorisis (removal of ignorance) and Peripateia (reversal of fortune).

Assignment: Write ten one sentences stories with an anagnorisis.  Write ten one sentence stories with a peripateia.  Write 3 3 sentence stories with both an anagnorisis and a peripateia.

Week Two: Voice.

Voice is characteristic of an oral culture, yet writing is literary.  Do not do any writing or reading for one week.  Talk to people in your life and learn to imitate them.

Week Three: The Unconscious

The best writing taps into the personal, impersonal, historical, familial and social unconscious.

Assignment: Learn to hypnotize yourself and with guided use of masks and dance, channel the conflicts within your unconscious.

Week Four: Style.

English style falls into three categories: lucid, euphuistic and anomalous

Assignment: Read Thomas Browne’s “Hydriotraphia or Urne Buriale” aloud.   Translate the euphuistic into either the lucid or the anomalous.

Week FIVE: The Audience

“The audience she is my hell, my heaven, my millstone, my wings, my tormenter, my dessert.”

Pair off with a classmate.  Ask him or her what feelings, emotions or epiphanies he or she would like to have.  Attempt to induce them with a short paragraph.  Have him or her report back on your success and try again.  Switch off.  Try doing this for an hour at dawn and an hour in the middle of the night.

WEEK FIVE: The Unknown.

“The best writing is a love affair with the unknown.”  Try to express this. Try not to express this. Try to ignore it — you will find that you can’t.

Week Six: Plot

Take one of your plots from week one and write it up as a 1400 word story taking into account what you have learned in the previous five weeks of the course.


10% class participation

20% limpidness

70% Sprezzatura

Points will be deducted for lack of success in hitting the number 1400 in the word count for your final project.  Instructor will be available during office hours to ajudicate whether hyphenated expressions count as one word or two.


6 thoughts on “Syllabus for Writing Course

  1. I love the one-sentence/three-sentence story exercise! I’ve played around with a really fun approach–I list five elements of a story that strike me as interesting, and then I try to come up with a plot involving all those elements. The plot ideally ends up being short, a few sentences, though sometimes grows into something longer. Here’s an example of a few such stories–they all use the same few elements to produce different plots (wrote this on my honeymoon):


    PS: one of my favorite ‘Futurama’ episodes is your ‘300 Big Boys’. That episode very much shows the appeal I think of presenting many very short plots (woven together). Another interesting similar experiment–“This American Life” did a podcast entitled “20 Acts in 60 Minutes”. I loved the result–the hour seemed to move very quickly, and yet it seemed by the end that much more than an hour’s worth of radio had played–here’s the link:


  2. Also: Learn how to make stories, not to show where the good fruit is, or where the bad fruit is…but to actively distract from fruit, bad or good.

    Stories that have severed all contact with the actual world. And as much, stories to utterly escape the world.

    With great literature comes no responsibility.

  3. Mikey says:

    1. His favourite part of America was the second A.
    2. About two thirds of the way through the book, on page 250, she reached the first appendix.
    3. Gimli son of Gloín had always envied his sister Anne for her normal sounding name.
    4. “It was ever thus” was the actual family motto.
    5. Shaking, he stood up from his seat and pushed his way past the other patrons and down the aisle.
    6. “But the only other person who spoke to Rob that night was me!”
    7. If Alex never used metaphors, if she really never used metaphors, then what had she meant when she said “hamstrung”?
    8. Another effect of time running backwards was that causality itself was reversed.
    9. The brightness, the blueness, the distances, the openness, and the intensity crashed in on the boy like a wave crashing on a sandcastle.
    10. .dne thgir eht morf trats ot rebmemer syawlA

    1. Looking at the ring now, it was obvious: “emerald cut” is for emeralds not diamonds.
    2. “Ok, wish one is obviously for infinity more monkey’s paws”.
    3. After Gladiator came out, Sisyphus was straight on the phone to the people who made the travelator.
    4. “Oh this!” she thought “I thought torture was going to be horrible, but I quite like this.”
    5. Putting up orange wallpaper in the kitchen had been a significant personal achievement for Lunch, until Anya told him what she thought of the colour.
    6. “But the twist is that every fiftieth orphan who discovers he’s a king or whatever, always dies in some agonising way before he claims the inheritance!”
    7. Aldorph laughed along for three or four Ha’s until he realised that Cornelius was pretend laughing.
    8. The stump turned out to be fascinating to girls.
    9. Autocorrect had changed all the curse words to illogical alternatives and rendered the whole text unintelligible, so she simply told him she must have written it by accident from her pocket.
    10. That summer, the summer I was to spend chained to two fellas named Brown and Moses, was one of the coolest on record since 1897.

    1. Twelve times a foster daughter, and for the first time she knew she had found real love. The arms of Mrs. Bull were hooked under Jessie’s armpits as they flailed in the mud. “Jessie” wept Mrs. Bull “I’m stuck too.”
    2. “You might be a conscientious objector? Might?” Red, flustered and awkward, it was a minute before Tom blurted out “I don’t want to eat people!” “My dear boy,” smiled the prefect, already dipping his pen in the ink ,”Where you’re going I can assure you, you will not have to eat anyone.”
    3. A small-town boy with small-town ideas went to the national Mercy championships in Ithaca. He thought he had a shot at winning, but he was knocked out in the first round by a girl going by the name of Sonietta. His girlfriend of two years couldn’t stand the shame and left him for the bass player in the local two-step band, a man 13 years her elder.

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