When one is writing fiction, a haunting can be a very useful metaphor. A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. And just as houses are literally shaped by the habits and treads and movements of the people that live in them, our selves are molded into shape, in part, by that which we have lost. Fictional ghosts can deliver messages from the beyond, add a historical layer to a story, or reveal something about a living character’s consciousness.
Whether you want to write about a psychological haunting that may or may not be real, or to create a solid and scary horror-story ghost to add intrigue and tension to your story, this course will add some haunting tools to your writing toolbox. You’ll come away with an understanding of the ways that having a ghost in your story can open up your narrative, and how to write it.
This class is open to writers of all experience levels.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Generative writing exercises and prompts to practice evoking the uncanny and the supernatural
- Verbal feedback on writing shared during the course
- A diagnostic to help you figure out what kind of ghost your narrative needs
- A scariness boost exercise, for when your ghost or haunting needs to be even spookier
- General tips for bending genres in your writing
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
This is a one-day seminar: students will do generative writing exercises in the classroom, but there is no outside homework.
Amy Shearn is the author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here. She is a senior editor at Forge, a fiction editor at Joyland, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. Amy received a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and has been awarded residencies at SPACE on Ryder Farm, The Unruly Retreat, and The Cabins. Amy has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and currently lives in Brooklyn with her two children. You can find her at amyshearnwrites.com or @amyshearn.
“Gripping, moving, and vital, UNSEEN CITY asks how human life might defy its lifespan—in the throes of love, the conviction of belief, and each person's mark upon a city that will survive them. For two days, I laughed at Amy Shearn's wry humor and gasped at her gorgeous sentences; I couldn't put this brilliant book down until its perfect final line (and I'm haunted still—which is appropriate, I suppose)!”
“In UNSEEN CITY Amy Shearn has written a sad and funny and profound book. This is a novel about grief and human connection, about today and yesterday. And it is damn hard to put down.”
“UNSEEN CITY is a bold take on the way that history binds us and how our stories are woven into and overlap in the very interstices of the city. It is an entrancing story of falling in and out of love and grief with a city, a person, a home.”
"Working with Amy Shearn took me from aspiring writer all the way to publication. The work we did together was incredibly valuable. In working with me on my manuscript, Amy taught me how fiction works, from character development to narrative arc to believable dialogue. I highly recommend working with her if you have a manuscript that needs to be taken to the next level."
"I had so much fun working with Amy Shearn on my manuscript, I only wish I had more time/funds/novels to workshop with her. I found her to be a very thoughtful editor who gave incisive yet supportive feedback. She took a great deal of care and was thorough in helping me re-think my book. She also brought some new insights to my story that had not occurred to me. I loved working with her so much that I’m going to risk misspelling the following word: exemplary."
"I was lucky enough to meet Amy while revising my first novel. I had dusted off my manuscript, laid it out on the operating table, and needed a fresh editorial perspective from someone not a blood relative. Working with Amy was awesome. She gave my book a very thoughtful, careful read and came back with insights that really helped me make cuts (killing your darlings isn't easy!) and edits that got the story arc where it needed to go. Amy has a keen editorial eye and great sense of humor (important in this business) and I'd recommend her to any fellow writer."