The most powerful short stories and novels are built on a foundation of great scenes. Scenes convey the fears and desires of characters in tense, funny, wonderful real-time action—so why are they so difficult to write? In this class, we'll explore the 3 Ps of great scenes (person, place, and problem) and discuss how to get in and out of a scene efficiently. We'll discuss the differences between scene, exposition, and “habitual time”, and why rooting our most emotional moments in scenes can provide powerful, poignant experiences in fiction. Each class will begin with a mini-lecture and discussion about a classic story’s use of scenes, followed by a prompt to get you writing. Students will also submit short stories to the class for feedback and group discussion.
Students will have the opportunity to submit two short stories or novel excerpts and receive feedback from me and their peers, with an emphasis on how to construct and "scene-ify" their stories. You’ll walk away from class with a better understanding of how scenes can strengthen your fiction, and with the skills to plan, develop, and write in-scene action more effectively.
This is a course ideal for beginning fiction writers interested in practicing the components and techniques of storytelling, as well as more advanced writers who are looking to incorporate more scenes into their writing but aren’t sure how.
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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Workshop two stories or novel excerpts with in-depth feedback
- An outline for building more compelling scenes into your fiction project
- Skills for planning, developing, and writing scenes in fiction
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Week One: What makes a scene? The components of story
Week Two: The three Ps of scenes
Week Three: Character, transformation, choice
Week Four: Raising the stakes
Week Five: Outlining your story or novel using scenes
Week Six: Climax and revelation: choosing scenes to power your story
Blair Hurley received her B.A. from Princeton University and her M.F.A. from NYU. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, West Branch, Mid-American Review, Washington Square, Hayden's Ferry Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Pushcart Prize and scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Her debut novel isThe Devoted (W.W. Norton & Company 2018).
“I loved Blair — I want to take a class from her again! She knows an incredible amount and kept me engaged the entire time.”
“This class was even better and more informative (and inspirational) than I had hoped. Blair is a fantastic teacher. I loved that she has had great success and was so open about sharing her experiences. Plus she was funny and down to earth!”
“If you are interested in polishing your writing to its full potential, consider hiring Blair Hurley as your editor. I did. She is tough and terrific. Tough because she caught every little mistake and foolishness I committed to page. Terrific because she is incredibly smart and creative, and she guided me so that dull storylines turned into gripping ones.”
“Blair is a beautiful and powerful writer, whose work often examines themes of identity, faith, and difficult family dynamics. Her writing is driven by great compassion, humor and wit, which renders her characters as complex, soulful and absorbing.”