Online | Fiction | Nonfiction | Seminar

4-Week Prose Seminar: How to Construct a Story

This four-week craft seminar will focus on techniques understanding how writers create patterns of images (and language) through repetition, splintering, and tie backs. A story is not just a series of characters and events, it is a carefully constructed form, a kind of music built from the root image in elaborate patterns of language.

In this class, we will pull back the curtain on what a story actually is, how writers create meaning through emphasis, and explore the way good stories function on the line level. Equally applicable to fiction and nonfiction, short and long forms. We will start by reading image patterning in the works of Bobbie Ann Mason, Ron Rash, Ocean Vuong, Jo Ann Beard, Barry Lopez, and Toni Morrison. Then writers will get to experiment with various techniques in their own writings, with written feedback from the instructor.

This class is open to writers of all levels. Weekly readings and writing prompts will guide the course.

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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Writers will see how prose is poetry, how the careful prose writer is managing images, details, and rhythms to create meaningful structures in their stories, essays, and books. In-class discussion of other writers’ work, and students will be encouraged to read/provide feedback on each other’s work.

- A deeper understanding of story structure and underlying patterns that create form.

- Generate new and exciting writing during class time.

- Experiment with new forms for stories and essays.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will read a short story, essay, or novel excerpt of around 20 pages each week and should come to class prepared to discuss the work in detail. Students will also be assigned weekly writing assignments, which the instructor and other students will read and provide written feedback on.


Week One: What is a story? What is an image? What do writers mean by form?

Week Two: Repetition: The Heart of Narrative.

Week Three: Focus and Compression: Depth over Breadth.

Week Four: Recognitions and Reversals: In Search of the Uncanny

Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in LitHub, CrimeReads, Air & Space Magazine, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. His first novel, The Falling Woman, was published by Algonquin Books in 2020.


"As a published writer with several books out in the world, it's really motivating to find an editor as committed and responsive as Rich, with the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that he brings to every edit. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Rich to anyone who's ready to take their craft seriously. Be prepared to put the work in, and enjoy the results."

Elizabeth St.John

"As someone who has written but never shared, I found Rich’s style inviting and insightful whether he was giving direct feedback or facilitating group discussions. He has a talent for being able to encourage a writer while making them want to be better. Rich was always available and really went above and beyond the expectations."

Josh Carpenter

"I feel extremely fortunate to have stumbled into his class at San Diego Writer’s Ink all those years ago. Rich became my mentor. It was he who encouraged me to pursue an MFA in creative writing. I have no doubt that I would not be at this point in my writing career were it not for Rich. I will add that though I had the privilege of being taught by some famous writers in my MFA, Rich is by far the best teacher of writing I have experienced. It is to my notes from his classes that I most often turn when I feel stuck. "

Jo-Anne Berelowitz

"Great writing, great plotting and a thoughtful plumbing of what makes us human...Highly recommended."

B.A. Shapiro

"A startling and suspenseful debut. Farrell's The Falling Woman creates an immediately compelling scenario...Subtle and profound."


"A mind-rattling debut mystery."

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