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 that the desires of our protagonists butt up against each other and 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 a group of women critiquing their friend’s choice of a mail order bride (Judy Budnitz, “Nadia”) to the world of prison, where endless time and limited space distort how the inmates understand each other (Edward P. Jones’ “Old Boys, Old Girls”). 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. 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.
- 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: Introductions / Ground Rules
Week Two: Two by Two – the Small Ensembles
Week Three: Characters at Work
Week Four: I and We: Collective Narrators
Week Five: Groups of Strangers
Week Six: The Social Space Over Time