Online | Fiction | Novel | Seminar

3-Week Online Fiction Seminar: Writing Active Scenes

Active scenes are the building blocks of stories and novels. Mastering scene-writing is one very effective way to understand story development, structure, and plot—helping us “make things happen” in our literary fiction.

In this three-week online course, we’ll learn how to write a compelling, active scene for a novel or short story—from set-up to landing. We’ll explore what a successful scene should accomplish, and break down the essential elements of scene-craft, focusing especially on character, setting, and dialogue. Students will have access to lectures on these aspects of craft, as well as selected excerpts from literature to read and discuss. In lieu of a workshop, writing exercises will give students opportunities to apply these lessons to their own work. Students will walk away with a deeper understanding of how fiction writers use scenes to build novels and stories as well as concrete tools to use when writing scenes.

This class is for intermediate and advanced writers who seek to sharpen their work on the page, and newer writers who want to learn the elements of scene-writing.

This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class.


- A deeper understanding of how writers use scenes to build stories and novels, and the opportunity to learn how to craft a successful, active scene for a novel or short story

- Access to written lectures on the elements of scene-writing

- Instructor feedback on written submissions, and one private conference (via phone or Skype) with the instructor to discuss your work


Week 1: Introduction to Scene (“Doing” versus “About”) & Character

Week 2: Setting & Landscape

Week 3: Dialogue & Editing

Lindsey Lee Johnson

Lindsey Lee Johnson holds a master of professional writing degree from the University of Southern California and a BA in English from UC Davis. She's taught writing at USC, Clark College, and Portland State University. Her debut novel, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth (Random House), was a California Book Award Finalist (First Fiction), Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, ABA Indie Next Pick, Book of the Month Club Pick, LibraryReads 'Top Ten' Pick, Publishers Weekly Book of the Week, California Bestseller, and People Magazine's Book of the Week. Born in Marin County, Lindsey lives in Los Angeles. 


“An alarming, compelling and coolly funny debut novel … Ms. Johnson's characters are unpredictable, contradictory and many things at once, which make them particularly satisfying … For its compassion, its ability to see the humanity inside even the most apparently hopeless person and the shimmering intelligence of its prose, THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH reminded me a bit of Rick Moody's THE ICE STORM … heartbreaking.”


“In sharp and assured prose, roving between characters, Lindsey Lee Johnson plumbs the terrifying depths of a half-dozen ultra-privileged California high school kids. I read it in two chilling gulps. It’s a phenomenal first book.”

Anthony Doerr #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

“Lindsey Lee Johnson is a sharp, intuitive reader who knows how to cut right to the emotional core of a character or scene. She's exactly the person you would want to critique your first—and last—draft with decisiveness, creativity, and warmth.”

Kate Hope Day author of IF/THEN, a novel, forthcoming from Random House

“I feel lucky to have had the attention and time of such a caring and talented instructor. Lindsey has an incredible ability to care about each one of her students individually. It was extremely clear that she is passionate about writing and genuinely wanted us all to share in that joy. She was enthusiastic and, at the same time, methodical and structured in her teaching. Lindsey’s lessons on writing will serve me for the rest of my life.”

former student