Online | Fiction | Workshop

6-Week Online Generative Fiction Workshop: Building the Story

This is a generative writing workshop with multiple prompts on themes including: writing in-scene, creating tension, engaging the reader, becoming aware of story structure, narrative arc, perspective, character relationships, and more. This workshop will equip writers with new, tangible tools to build a meaningful, high-impact narrative. Students should expect to build new literary muscles.

Course Level: Beginner/Intermediate: With writers who are in the earlier stages of their work, I often find that they are not totally aware of the different tools they are using to build a story. They’re often reaching blindly into a box and pulling out whatever tool happens into their grasp. I want them to be very aware of which tools they are choosing to use, and why, and exactly how those tools impact the shape and reader's experience of a story.

In this course, we will begin by pulling writers away from exposition and making them very aware of when they are showing and when they are telling, and the impact this has on the reader. Then, we will move forward from there. We will be looking at a few particularly enduring types of stories and how they are structured in order to inform and strengthen our own work.

This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome and a computer to join your class meetings.


- Become more deliberate with the choices you make in your writing

- A better understanding of when to “show” and when to “tell”

- Many different writing prompts that will help students understand different parts of craft

- Understanding what makes published stories successful and a look at why certain stories enduring

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Every week, between courses, students will either be assigned a reading or writing assignment. The majority of weeks, students will be assigned to write one new scene or very short story (2 to 5) pages, with clear perimeters. The scenes are short, but students are encouraged to make them clean and tight, and adhere closely to the perimeters of the assignment.


1. Writing In-Scene:

2. Understanding the difference between exposition and active narrative (with close reads of student’s scenes)

3. Reinvigorating classic story tropes

4. Close read and discussion of student’s scenes using classic story tropes with contemporary twists

5. Understanding how character and narrator perspective shifts the takeaway of the story

6. Close read and discussion final student stories, followed by Q&A with instructor (may include questions about publishing) 

Chavisa Woods

Chavisa Woods is the author of the Shirley Jackson Award-winning book, Things To Do When You're Goth in the Country. Her fourth book 100 Times, was released by Seven Stories in June 2019. Her work has received praise from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Electric Lit, Lit Hub, The Rumpus, Tin House, and actress Emma Roberts (American Horror Story/Scream Queens.) She was also the recipient of the Kathy Acker Award, the Cobalt Fiction Prize, the Jerome Foundation Award, and is a three-time Lambda finalist, and MacDowell Fellow. 


"I suspect this text will become a vital tool for teaching, reclaiming, and collectively mourning for years to come.”

Lambda Literary

"Woods lays out her experiences, from the mundane to the horrifying and from the horrifying to the mundane. The effect is unsettling."


"With her forthright, stark style, Woods reveals and examines the abuse she and so many other women have endured."


"Fascinating, horrific but also sometimes hilarious."


“Incident by incident, this book makes its case in stark, personal terms."


"Her characters are complex and never sink into the ease of generalizations. She spares no experience in her representation of modern America; it is a rare work of literary fiction that fully showcases the rich and diverse American populace. The stories establish instant, distinct voices. This book is tight, intelligent, and important, and sure to secure Woods a seat in the pantheon of critical twenty-first-century voices."


"Think of Woods as a literary exorcist, calling out certain entities that possess rural America: isolation, working-class poverty, drugs, incarceration, military dogma, and evangelical religion."


"Woods allows ambivalence to complicate her stories so they cannot be reduced to rhetoric, though they remain staunchly political (...)Woods embraces the complex humanity of her characters even as she explores the tragedy of enculturation, identifying forces that divide us. Woods' tone brings a certain frankness that makes everything from the banal to the patently ridiculous seem utterly believable."


"I can’t think of any other book that captures the essence of America the way Woods' collection does—it is nuanced and provocative, heartfelt and funny and wise."


"Chavisa’s teaching gave me a much needed push in my writing. Her insightful and rigorous questions make clear that she knows how to craft compelling and meaningful work. Since taking her workshop, I have been able to apply a keener lens to analyze writing as well as gaining the resolve to dig into subject matter befitting the course’s title."

former student

"Chavisa Woods is a very talented writer and teacher. From the beginning, she provided easy to understand tips that changed the way I tell stories. She taught us skills for keeping the reader engaged and also how to bring the story to a larger, socially relevant context. I highly recommend her class!"

former student