The first-person voice in fiction is a live-wire between your characters and the reader. When it works, the reader feels the buzz behind the prose.
Throughout this workshop (open to both short stories and novel excerpts!), we’ll use observation, empathy, and diction to craft sentences that bring out our character’s particular, unique humanity (or inhumanity, if you want to go dark). And we’ll practice the time-tested method for achieving a memorable, effective first-person voice in fiction: revision, revision, revision.
We’ll look at examples of voice in fiction, ranging from the comic to the tragic, from the to calm to the monstrous. Our readings will include work by Donald Antrim, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lydia Davis, Martin Amis, Halle Butler, Gunnhild Øyehaug, Karan Mahajan, Mariana Enriquez, Matthew Klam, Garth Greenwell, and more.
We’ll also discuss texts from outside of literature, looking at how a single paragraph can convey a politician’s obfuscations, a celebrity’s attempt to charm, or an essayist’s regionalisms.
You’ll walk away from this course with a better understanding of the fundamentals of fiction, including character, story, and plot, as well as how voice relates and directs all of these aspects of craft.
This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.
- Learning the fundamentals of fiction, including character, story, narrative development, and the technical aspects of craft
- Each student will workshop two stories (or novel samples) during the course, and receive written feedback from me and fellow students
- Becoming a sharper reader, seeing how writers like George Saunders and Sam Lipsyte achieve their effects—and learning how to spot the writers and books which can inform whatever it is you’re working on next
- Learning how to work through the Fear of the First Draft and love the revision process
- Practical advice on the “practice” part of the writing practice: learning how to maintain voice (and discipline!) for months- or years-long writing projects
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Ryan Chapman is the author of the novel Riots I Have Known (Simon & Schuster, May 2019) and the illustrated book Conversation Sparks (Chronicle Books). He's written for The New Yorker, GQ, The Believer, Electric Literature, Longreads, Guernica, and elsewhere. He has previously worked in marketing and online editorial for Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, The Penguin Press, and BOMB magazine. He lives in upstate New York.
“Ryan Chapman was a guest speaker for one of my creative writing classes at Bard College, and many of the students he spoke to told me afterward that Ryan's conversation with the class was the best moment of the semester. Ryan is an incredibly knowledgeable and helpful speaker, drawing upon many years of experience and excellence in writing and publishing.”
“Ryan Chapman is a natural teacher, bursting with intellect and enthusiasm. His perspective on story and his writing are singular, and so I spend as much time with him as possible in conversation about writing. Truly. Why? Because I learn from him every time we talk. My own work, especially my recent work is deeply informed by insights."
“Chapman’s Riots I Have Known joins Kushner’s Mars Room on the short list of truly remarkable American prison novels. Chapman’s debut is literally riotous: an improbably beguiling, utterly ribald provocation, something like Lenny Bruce’s 'Father Flotsky’s Triumph' as retold by Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man.”
“Savage, fearless, and funny as hell, RIOTS I HAVE KNOWN also possesses, not so strangely, a poignant core. In this mother of all editor’s notes, Ryan Chapman creates a narrative voice that is by turns tender, cruel, profane, wildly inventive and, finally, unforgettable.”
“[A] gritty, bracing debut… Told in searing, high velocity prose.”
“[A] funny and excellent debut… Supremely mischievous and sublimely written, this is a stellar work.”
“Chapman's book is one of the funniest American novels to come around in years, a sharp satire of the literary scene as well as the broken prison system. ...Dark, daring, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, RIOTS I HAVE KNOWN is one of the smartest — and best — novels of the year.”
"Ryan's class did exactly what I hoped it would do. It provided a nurturing space for me to be boldly creative. I was given the confidence and courage to write. It's something I have not experienced in quite a while, but Ryan and his insightful and excellent instruction, as well as the other students, established an environment where I felt welcomed and where I was encouraged to grow."