Right Voice for the Right Story:

Discover the Variety of Voices Inside You
and How to Use Them

January 16-February 13, 2024

Deadline: December 5, 2023


Jason Ridler



Live Class:

7 pm-8:30 pm EST

Tuesday, Jan. 16
Tuesday, Jan. 30
Tuesday, Feb. 13



Course Description

We crave stories that create a distinct effect in the mind of the reader. The vehicle for such stories is voice, that quality of prose that makes each story feel like an experience more than fiction.

The voice of a story emerges from discrete considerations and decisions about diction, sentence length/variation, paragraph construction, story structure, point of view, and attitude. Find the right combination and a story can go from drab to dynamite. So how do we find the best voice for each of our stories? How do we forge it on the page?

In Right Voice for the Right Story, we’ll examine elements of voice that, when wielded together, can make our story more compelling than if we drafted in our usual ways. To do so, we will focus on

-Subject Matter: Discover the subject matter you really care about and build from a place of deep interest to make your voice emerge. Explore and discuss the work and ideas of Joyce Carol Oates, Joe Lansdale, Jane Yolen and other masters of voice, then employ their theories on voice and subject matter to create scenes that mine your knowledge and obsessions and craft them into narrative in your own voice.

-Emotion: Learn how to use a “controlling emotion” to inform your prose and narrative choices, especially describing the world of the story or character to the reader, and keep the story moving towards its best ending. We’ll study the ideas and work of Lucius Shepard, Gary Braunbeck, and Steve Tem to help us choose the best tone, point of view, and character to tell a particular story. We’ll then create the compelling voice of the narrator or point of view character and write scenes that have characters engage the world with emotional depth that might otherwise be lost.

-Form: Traditional narrative is useful, but some stories get stuck in its structure. You can sometimes harness the best voice for the story by utilizing unconventional form. We’ll study the work of Lance Olsen, Kate Zambreno, and Kathy Acker, as well as theories and ideas from theater and the dramatic arts to open up possibilities for voice that can only come from less conventional forms.

Right Voice for the Right Story will provide the tools and tactics you need to make stories whose voices sing above their range and echo in the mind of the reader long after the story is read.

The course is intended for writers of fantastic fiction, an umbrella term encompassing fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. Fiction writers who focus on other genres could also profit from this class and would be welcome. The course will cover issues relevant in middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction.

It will be most valuable for intermediate writers.

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 their classmates that is both truthful and helpful.

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

Each student will have a private meeting with Jay.


Students will have some homework assigned before the first meeting, and will also be assigned homework during the course.

The first assignment will have a due date of January 15, the day before our initial meeting.

Homework will be assigned on January 16 and January 30, with due dates, respectively, of January 22 and February 5. You will also be required to provide critiques of some of your classmates’ work, which will be due on January 29 and February 12. Any student who misses a deadline may be expelled from the class and will receive no refund.

All assignments should be properly formatted and should be submitted as MS Word files or rich text files.

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

Assignments will include reading and analyzing assigned texts, critiquing, completing exercises to practice techniques, writing new material, analyzing your previously written material, and revising previously written material. Students will also be required to reply to online discussion questions during the course.

Jay will return students’ homework with his feedback by the day before the next class session.

Students are expected to follow the policies about assignments and class materials established in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.


Since we will have only 3 class meetings, attendance at every class is necessary for students 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.

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 complete homework by the deadlines.

Students are expected to follow the policies about attendance and behavior set out in the Odyssey Online Student Handbook.


Students will be required to complete several readings before the course begins. Additional readings may be required during the course. All required readings will be provided to students.

Technical Requirements:

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

Tentative Schedule:

January 16:
First class meeting. Introduction and orientation. What is voice? Discussion of pre-class readings. How do these authors build from subject matter to voice? What are the ingredients of their voices? Theories on voice and subject matter. Assignment of homework.

January 22:
Homework is due.

January 29:
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with Jay’s feedback.

January 30:
Second class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment. Point of view and the controlling emotion.  How to bring voice and emotion to your description of the world of the story or character. How to choose the best tone, point of view, and character to tell a story. Creating the compelling voice of the narrator or point of view character. Assignment of new homework.

January 31:
Some students will have private meetings with Jay between 7-8:15 PM EST.

February 5:
Homework is due.

February 7:
Some students will have private meetings with Jay between 7-8:15 PM EST.

February 12:
Critiques are due. Homework is returned with Jay’s feedback. Some students will have private meetings with Jay between 7-8:15 PM EST

February 13:
Third class meeting. Discussion of previous homework assignment. Ways to strengthen voice.  Exploring the variety of voices inside you. Unconventional forms and how they can open up more possibilities for voice.  Where to go from here.

jason ridler

Instructor: Jason Ridler

Jason Ridler, Ph.D., has dedicated twenty years of his life teaching and guiding students to success in writing and history. His students have discovered passions for learning, sold novels, stories, and memoirs, and thrived in education from high school to grad school. A professional historian and published novelist, he currently teaches creative writing at Google and history at Johns Hopkins University.  He’s a graduate of the 2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop. Find out more at www.jasonridler.com.