Crafting Innovative Fiction within Creative Constraints

What is more intimidating than the blank page? When we tell ourselves that we can write anything, this sentiment can feel more inhibiting than inviting. The unlikely solution is restriction. Many working novelists—people who must continuously reinvigorate their creative lives—have found that they write with more imagination, enthusiasm, and focus by imposing creative boundaries upon themselves. These might be physical (e.g., a chapter unfolding entirely in an elevator), temporal (e.g., a paragraph that must span a full century), or even grammatical (e.g., a short story told entirely in question statements). While creative restraints are common in poetry, they are often ignored in prose. No longer! This course is designed around the tried-and-true belief that as writers, we do our best work when we’re given intriguing restraints. Over the course of five weeks, we will read widely, taking our inspiration from stories that span millennia—from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to the playful restraints of the French collective OuLiPo and the short stories of Donald Barthelme. Writing exercises born from these readings will allow students to play and explore, receiving daily prompts and weekly feedback on short pieces. By the end, your writing practice will be invigorated, and you will have all sorts of new tools at your disposal to draw upon whenever you feel stuck.

Bee Sacks

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Online, instructor-led
Jan 22 - Feb 26, 2024
Stanford Continuing Studies