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Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction

 
Instructor:  Jeanne Cavelos
 
 
Level:  Beginner/Intermediate
 
 
Class Times:  There will be three class meetings.
Thursday, January 1, 2015,
Thursday, January 15, 2015, and
Thursday, January 29, 2015,
7:00 pm-9:00 pm U.S. Eastern Time Zone
 
 
Application Deadline:  December 6, 2014
 
 
Tuition:  $249.00
 
 
 

 
For a description of the class, its assignments, requirements, and
schedule, see the syllabus below.
 
To apply, click here.

For more information on Odyssey's Online Classes, click here.
 


Showing versus Telling in Fantastic Fiction
Syllabus


 

NOTE: Class meetings for this course are 2 hours long, rather than our usual 90 minutes.

Course Description:
Perhaps the first rule most writers hear is "Show, don't tell." Yet in my experience, few writers actually understand the difference between showing and telling. Even fewer understand that showing and telling are not two opposing possibilities, but two ends of a spectrum offering a range of subtle gradations. To write with power, a writer must know where on that spectrum he should be at every moment, and he must be able to control the levels of showing and telling. These abilities are key to every sentence in every story. The skillful manipulation of showing and telling can make settings vivid, bring characters to life, put the reader in the middle of the action, emphasize the most important ideas and moments, provide clarity, involve the reader, and convey powerful emotions.

We will study examples of the successful and unsuccessful use of showing and telling. We'll also discuss the special necessity of showing in fantastic fiction, and the challenges of doing so. Students will practice showing and telling across the spectrum, will study works they love for examples of showing and telling, and will rewrite a section of their own work, putting these techniques into practice. Students will also provide critiques on their classmates' work, and revise their work in response to feedback.

Students must be ready to hear about the weaknesses in their writing and to work to strengthen them. Students must also be ready to give feedback to classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will students improve their writing.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, which is an umbrella term I use to cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Many of the examples we discuss will be taken from fantastic fiction. Yet the issue of skillfully controlling showing and telling is important in all fiction writing, so fiction writers who focus on other genres could profit from this class and would be welcome.

Since the class will begin by defining showing and telling and build from there, beginning writers should be able to understand the concepts and profit from them. Yet the course will be most valuable for intermediate writers who have significant proficiency with style, description, characterization, and point of view.

Texts:
Students will be required to read several pieces of fiction. Readings will be made available before the course begins via email. One or two short readings may be distributed after the course begins.

Assignments:
Students will be required to read some material before our first class meeting, including a lesson on critiquing, and to answer some questions.

Homework will be assigned on January 1 and January 15, with due dates, respectively, of January 7 and January 21. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates' work, which will be due on January 14 and 28. Any student who misses a deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be in standard manuscript format and should be submitted as MS Word files, or rich text files.

You should reserve a minimum of 5 hours to complete each homework assignment.

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, performing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. I will return your homework with my feedback by the next class session.

Students are expected to follow guidelines about postings to the Yahoo Group in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Attendance:
Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for you to get the most out of this course.

You are expected to attend all classes, except in cases of emergency. In such cases, you should notify the instructor.

Classes will be recorded and made available to students for a limited time. On rare occasions, students' computers do not allow them to access the recordings, so we cannot promise that this will work for you.

Any student who misses more than one class may be expelled from the course and will receive no refund.

It is your responsibility to find out what happened in any classes you missed and to make up any work.

Students are expected to follow the policies set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.

Technical Requirements:
Technical requirements for all Odyssey Online Classes are covered on the Online Classes page.

Tentative Schedule:
January 1:      First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. What exactly is showing and what is telling? Why is this important? The advantages of showing. Choosing significant details. The special importance of showing in fantastic fiction. The role of telling. The advantages of telling. How much should you show and how much should you tell, and when? Assignment of homework.
 
January 7:      Homework is due.
January 9:      Some students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-7:45 PM EST.
January 14:      Critiques are due.
January 15:      Second class meeting. Discussion of homework. Why authors tell when it would be better to show. The full spectrum of showing and telling. Deciding where on the spectrum you should be at each moment. Using showing and telling to create setting and atmosphere. What is atmosphere and why is it important? The eight techniques for showing characters' emotions. The techniques that work best for viewpoint characters and for non-viewpoint characters. Homework is returned with my feedback. Assignment of homework.
 
January 16:      Some students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-7:45 PM EST.
January 21:      Homework is due.
January 23:      Some students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-8:00 PM EST.
January 28:      Critiques are due.
January 29:      Third class meeting. Discussion of homework. How dialogue and thoughts fit into the world of showing and telling. Implying versus stating explicitly. Top priorities for thoughts. The difficulties of showing in first person. Showing and telling with figurative language in fantastic fiction. Designing a scene to show key aspects of your character, world, or plot. How to continue your progress. Homework is returned with my feedback.
 
January 30:      Some students will have private meetings with me between 7:00-8:00 PM EST.
Instructor:
Jeanne Cavelos Jeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust. You can find more information about Jeanne here.


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