Werewolves, parrots, and aliens—how to start? This six-week class is open to both genre and literary fiction writers who are curious about featuring non-human beings in their stories that subvert common cliches and stereotypes. How can we make our unreal characters real, relatable, and resonate? Whether you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, or a mix and blend of them all, your characters still need to be animated on the page. We’ll reference contemporary authors such as Ted Chiang, Karen Russell, and N.K. Jemisin, among others, as examples on how non-human characters can be expressed through voice, dialogue, and point of view.
The first week will consist of generative prompts for writing non-human entities, and a discussion of how these characters are rendered from the readings. There will not be class the week after, but I will host a one-and-a-half-hour Q&A session to answer any questions you have on brainstorming, characters, and story ideas, and you will turn in your 5,000 max-word story for workshop that evening. The next four weeks will be spent in workshop: discussing craft techniques, sharing prompt responses based on your own creative work, and workshopping two student stories every week. Each student will receive peer and instructor feedback on one complete short story draft. Our last week will focus on tips and tricks for revision and submitting to different publication venues. Each student will leave with a complete short story and several scenes for new pieces.
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.
- Learn to write non-human characters with more confidence and authority, while countering stereotypes and subverting common genre tropes.
- Complete one draft of a short story no longer than 5,000 words and receive feedback, tips and tricks for revising and submitting this story to different venues.
- Leave with multiple beginnings for new stories, and a deeper understanding of voice, dialogue, and point of view.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
1. The first week, students should come to class having read three assigned stories (around 10,000 words total). They should be prepared to turn in a 5,000 max-word story within a week to prepare for workshop after a live Q&A session.
2. Stories will be distributed a week ahead of when they are scheduled to be workshopped.
3. Workshop weeks will have students read two stories (max 10,000 words total) and prepare a critical response of no longer than 400 words and a creative response no longer than 300 words.
4. Students will discuss their revision plans (no longer than 700 words) during the last class as I share tips and tricks on submitting to journals.
Week 1: Introduction to characterization, character tropes in genre, and a discussion of the readings. Brief writing prompts in point of view, dialogue, and voice will be provided. A live hour-and-a-half Q&A session will be held the week after to answer questions before students turn in their short story.
Week 2: One and a half-hour Q&A session!
Week 3: Workshop 2 stories. Conversation will be centered around a character’s lexicon, the different narrative modes, and how distance can be represented in language.
Week 4: Workshop 2 stories. Discussion will focus on voice, dialogue, and interiority.
Week 5: Workshop 2 stories. Conversations will parse apart subtext from action as shown through our characters, and how to keep our characters as a part of plot.
Week 6: Workshop 2 stories. We’ll talk about forms, structures, and emotional arcs as determined by our characters.
Week 7: We’ll confirm our plans to revise, and I’ll share publication advice and potential outlets.
Ploi Pirapokin is the Nonfiction Editor at Newfound Journal, the Co-Editor of The Greenest Gecko: An Anthology of New Asian Fantasy forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press, and sits on the board for Khoreo Magazine. Her work is featured in Tor.com, Pleiades, Apogee Journal, The Offing, The Bellingham Review, and more. A graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, she also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She can be found on www.ppirapokin.com.
“You know those moments when you’ve realized that even in your effort to be well-versed in something and deeply probe at it, you’ve been asking it the wrong questions the whole time? This is the effect reading Ploi Pirapokin’s essay, “How to be Extraordinary in America,” has.”
“I’m also going to admit (there’s no way for this not to be corny, sorry) that the way you write inspires me—in so many ways, but especially the way you write about Thai/Hong Kong politics and culture both critically and with immense nuance and empathy. It’s something I’ve always struggled with—trying to write critically/thoughtfully about the many cultural intersections I come from, while also acknowledging the immensely fraught weight/responsibility of writing these stories when they will be consumed by a predominantly white audience.”
“Ploi was one of the 20 artists chosen out of 119 applicants to participate as a prose writer. We were impressed by her unique ability to create a range of work, from a memoir, to work that is grounded in aspects of everyday Thai and Chinese culture, to work that is Kafkaesque in its use of imagination and fantasy.”
“I have taken many online classes and Ploi was one of the very best. She gives constructive criticism—meaning she points out strengths and weaknesses of a given piece of writing which you’ve turned in. She really promotes concrete writing and pushes her students to do their best work.”
“Ploi was incredibly responsive and insightful. Her feedback and criticism cut to the core of the issues in my writing, but her delivery was kind and supportive. I’d definitely take another class with Ploi again.”
“Ms. Pirapokin’s content in the course itself was outstanding. She provided a series of texts and video presentations illustrative of the material we were studying. She made herself available not only to me, but also to all the students in the class. Her kindness radiated from her and she was very attentive to all our needs.”