In this four-week course, we will learn how to make our characters talk. We’ll read the work of Elmore Leonard, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Egan, and Curtis Sittenfeld, analyzing dialogue to determine how each author uses the artifice of fiction to capture the energy and momentum of real-life conversation. What should your characters say to each other? How much should they leave unsaid? When might dialogue hesitate, pause, or stop, and how can these breaks in the conversation drive the narrative forward?
In addition to a weekly reading assignment, students will complete three short writing exercises. In the fourth week, students will submit a dialogue-heavy writing sample. Throughout the course, I will provide feedback. Though this course won’t take the form of a traditional workshop, students will also have the opportunity to comment on one another’s work. This class is open to writers with all levels of experience.
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.
- Receive written feedback from instructor on three exercises and one story or novel excerpt
- Learn to use dialogue to drive your narrative forward
- Participate in supportive discussion with instructor and peers
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to complete less than an hour of reading each week and be prepared to write three short exercises (under 1,000 words) over the course of the class. Students will also turn in one short story or novel excerpt (up to 3,000 words) and provide feedback on their peers’ submission.
WEEK ONE: "For Something To Do" by Elmore Leonard
WEEK TWO: The opening chapter of A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
WEEK THREE: "Casting Shadows" by Jhumpa Lahiri
WEEK FOUR: "A For Alone" by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Filled with compelling characters…Full of texture and authentic human ambivalence.”
"I'm a goner; I will read anything she writes.''
"She writes as engagingly and insightfully about basketball and broadcasting as she does about work, love, friendship, ambition, motherhood, aging, and the power and frailty of the body."
"Emily can take any piece of writing from good to great with her ability to hone in on the heart of the story and her deep understanding of what makes a novel engaging and believable."
"Emily is a careful reader and a skilled editor. She has been invaluable in turning my writing into the best possible version of itself."