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2-Week Online Fiction Master Class: Time & Perspective

We make a ton of nearly unconscious decisions every time we write a scene, and many of those decisions have to do with two major areas of craft: time and perspective, or the clock of a story and the eye of a narration. Who gets to see, and what does that privilege mean for our stories? When do we tell the story, and what parts do we leave out? What secrets are already present, and how can we use those secrets to our advantage? How big is the scope, either of sight or time? And how are time and perspective related when we think about a story’s structure?

This course is for anyone wanting to make their fiction bigger or more complex, and is designed to get you thinking about time and perspective in different ways, so you can use that understanding to shape the kind of story you want to tell. We’ll look at how time and perspective are manipulated in short fiction, and how you might use them to reinvigorate or complicate a story idea you have. This class is suitable for those working on novels or shorter fiction projects.

Between the first (March 28th) and second (April 11th) class, students will have the opportunity to complete an assignment and receive brief feedback from the instructor. While this class is lecture-based, there will be some opportunities for in-class discussion.

This class meets over text-chat, with the instructor lecturing over audio. You will need to use Google Chrome, a computer, and headphones to join your class meetings.


- A deeper understanding of time and perspective, and how to apply them to your fiction.

- Exercises to help you write and/or revise a part of or whole story according to uses of time and perspective.

- Instructor lecture and documents for reference, as well as brief feedback on a portion of your writing.

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Two short readings will be assigned before class starts. Between the first and second session, there will be one assignment students can complete for light feedback. Class time will be made up of lectures, discussions, prompts, and free-writes.


Session 1: Empathy & Secrets

Pre-class: Reading Alice Munro’s “The Albanian Virgin” and Robert Boswell’s “Spandrels”

Discussion of the readings; defining the clock on your story; exercises to follow the story’s internal push towards or away from other times and perspectives; exercises to explore hidden perspectives; how time and perspective are related

Session 2: World & Process

Pre-class: The Argument assignment and "Wolf and Rhonda" by Jamel Brinkley

Discussion of the assignment; possible structures of multi-perspective stories; exercises to use these craft elements to develop other parts of your story (character, setting, tone); process-related ways to think about time and perspective  

Aja Gabel

Aja Gabel's debut novel is The Ensemble.  Aja's prose can be found in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Glimmer Train, BOMB, and elsewhere. She has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Houston, Sweet Briar College, and Pacific University, as well as at conferences and community workshops. She earned her BA at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia, and has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Aja was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown 2012-2013, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Bear.


"Aja Gabel's powerful debut offers a sensitive portrait of four young musicians forging their paths through life: sometimes at odds with each other, sometimes in harmony, but always inextricably linked by their shared pasts."


"With uncommon clarity and empathy, Aja Gabel brings us inside the passionate, complex, and sometimes cutthroat intimacy that exists among the four members of a string quartet. A wise and powerful novel about love, life, and music. I didn't want it to end."

Maggie Shipstead author of SEATING ARRANGEMENTS and ASTONISH ME

"Sweeping, romantic, elegiac, THE ENSEMBLE gives you the feeling of being inside the music of a quartet, a look into the relationships under the music, the love and heartbreak, set against their ruthless commitment to both their art, and to each other. Aja Gabel is a phenomenon."

Alexander Chee author of QUEEN OF THE NIGHT and EDINBURGH

"A page-turner of a debut.... THE ENSEMBLE is set in the world of classical music (so, yes, this is a good book for all you MOZART IN THE JUNGLE fans) and tracks the way the friends, who comprise the Van Ness Quartet, navigate their youthful inexperience, riotous success, professional failures, and all of the other things that come with sky-rocketing ambition and a reliance on other people."


"Phenomenal first novel.... THE ENSEMBLE is really a love story. Love of music. Love of friends. Love of family. The genius here is that the reader becomes a part of the ensemble, too, so immersed in these people, that to call them characters seems a disservice. Like them, we feel the pull of time, the need for the music. In the brilliant coda, after we have become very aware of them as individuals, their lives are once again part of one single whole, and here, are collectively narrated, with the yearning of nostalgia."


"In Ms. Gabel’s terrifically entertaining debut, the frictions of long-term friendships are woven into the “webbed, collaborative endeavor” of the quartet. Their music doesn’t transcend the mess of living; it testifies to it."