In this course, we’ll study fragmented fictions and talk about the possibilities for crafting a novel or a short story, depending on your goal, out of fragments. We will look at what the form has to offer in terms of creating momentum, developing emotional resonances, and weaving seemingly disparate musings/scenes/ideas/sources into a whole. What constitutes a fragment/vignette? How do writers use fragments to their advantage, and how can we do the same? In what ways does the fragmented form eliminate or alter traditional elements of fiction, like plot, linearity, scene, character, etc.? And what does the form have to offer instead?
This course is for any level of writer interested in or at work on writing a fragmented work of fiction. Each week, students will read examples including excerpts from novels by writers like Mary Robison, Anelise Chen, Valeria Luiselli, Renata Adler, Rachel Khong, and Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. We will also look at examples of short fictions that employ vignettes, as well as a few craft essays on the topic. We will look at the different ways in which these writers use fragments, gleaning from them the tools and possibilities for our own work. We will also discuss more practical elements of the writing and revision process: How does one go about arranging and structuring fragments in a long work? How can one approach revision, both on a micro level (for individual fragments) and macro level (figuring out what to add, what to cut)?
There will be optional writing and revision prompts each week, and students will be able to post their work for feedback from their peers and the instructor. (Note: This is a craft seminar, and feedback on posted work and during class discussion will be brief in comparison to a workshop.)
This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class.
- A greater understanding of techniques employed in fragmented fictions
- Strategies for writing and revising a long fragmented work
- Useful prompts to push forward your project
- Personalized feedback from peers and instructor on 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
Students will be expected to read approximately 30-50 pages each week. If they choose to post their work in response to various prompts, they are also expected to provide light feedback to their peers.
Week 1: Overview of fragmented narratives. What are they? What do they have to offer? What are some examples?
Week 2: Tools and tips for generating fragments. Dialogue, musings, compressed scenes. How to incorporate research into fragmented works.
Week 3: Arranging and structuring fragmented narratives. Revision strategies.
Week 4: A one-on-one feedback video or phone call about your personal project.
Alexandra Chang's debut novel Days of Distraction (Ecco / HarperCollins) is forthcoming in March 2020. Her short stories have appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Glimmer Train, LARB Quarterly Journal, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Syracuse University and currently lives in Ithaca, NY. You can find more at: alexandrachang.com
"A startlingly original and deeply moving debut—kaleidoscopic, funny, heart-rending, beautifully observed, and formally daring. It struck me as a new variety of novel, a work of art roughly in the tradition of Claudia Rankine’s CITIZEN, reminding us that there is no difference between the political and the spiritual—everyone is, like the narrator, trying to be free, in order to love and be loved, but terrible forces set loose in the world—racism, corporatism—create obstructions in the path, more for some than for others, creating a political and a moral catastrophe. The accomplishment here is the way that Chang manages to embody this struggle in one quirky, highly self-aware, beautiful human soul, and to engage the reader completely, via the clarity and honesty of the language and her deep insights into human nature. Chang here establishes herself as one of the most important of the new generation of American writers."
"Alexandra Chang’s immaculate debut novel, DAYS OF DISTRACTION, is a wholly engaging joy to read. Chang writes with wit and sharpness as she curates moments, observations and histories that together make something of beautiful depth and significance. It takes great bravery to make art of so many of those things we fear and love. An important, gratifying read."
"DAYS OF DISTRACTION is the kind of book so alive with intelligence, humor, and attention that it made me feel more awake to the world just to read it. Alexandra Chang's finely tuned observations are a miracle of precision and clarity as she illuminates how complex and entangled our notions of selfhood, family, love, history, and existence ultimately are, and how perilous and exhilarating the journey to navigate them can be."