In this class, we will learn how to write stories that have large, sometimes unruly, casts of characters: stories about work, about class, and about play—anywhere the desires of our protagonists butt up against each other they generate the play of conflict that makes social fiction so rewarding to read.
Beginning with a simple double-date gone disastrously wrong (Donald Antrim's "Another Manhattan"), we'll slowly expand our focus, from the cast of drunken hangers-on at a small-town Irish hotel (Kevin Barry's "Fjord of Killary") to the entire social world of West Memphis as it grapples with a murder trial (Cary Holladay's "Merry-Go-Sorry"). At each stage, we'll talk about the challenges of maintaining interiority and depth for our characters in a wide canvas, and ask ourselves: What can the social story do that more inward-facing narratives can't?
Each week students will submit and discuss work by their peers centered on the unique challenges of the ensemble cast. By the end of the class, each writer will feel more confident in their ability to create a convincing and lively social world in their fiction.
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.
- Insight into the way in which an ensemble cast functions in a short story
- Prompts to help you explore the social world in your fiction
- Detailed feedback on two short stories or novel excerpts
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Each student will be expected to read 1-2 published short stories in preparation for each session, as well as work by their peers.
Each week will feature a generative prompt, designed as a springboard for larger work.
In addition, every student will submit two 3k-7k word short stories for workshop during the course.
Week One: Two + Two (the Small Ensemble)
Week Two: Parties and Road Trips
Week Three: Groups of Strangers
Week Four: Characters at Work
Week Five: Small Town Disasters
Week Six: Living in the City