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8-Week Online Fiction Workshop: Advanced Scene-Writing

Scenes are the building blocks of stories and novels. Mastering scene-writing is one very effective way to understand character development, story structure, and plot—helping us “make things happen” in our literary fiction.

In this eight-week online workshop, we’ll examine published scenes by skilled writers—such as Susan Choi, Jennifer Egan, Yaa Gyasi, Kazuo Ishiguro, Katie Kitamura, Raven Leilani, Elizabeth McCracken, Emily St. John Mandel, Sally Rooney, Elizabeth Strout, and Joy Williams—then apply what we’ve learned to our own stories and novels.

In a weekly Zoom workshop, students will develop a deeper understanding of the essential elements of scene-craft, especially character, setting, and dialogue. Each meeting will begin with a guided close reading of a successful scene from a published novel or short story, revealing why and how the scene works. Students will then have opportunities to apply these lessons to their own work. At each meeting, up to three students (depending on class size) will have their own scenes workshopped in class. (During the eight weeks, each student will have two opportunities to submit scenes for workshop and instructor feedback.)

Students will gain a deeper understanding of how writers use scenes, interspersed with summary and reflection, to develop characters and to build novels and stories. They will also learn concrete tools for writing and editing their own scenes.

This class is intended for intermediate and advanced writers who seek to sharpen their scenes on the page, and make things happen in their novels and stories. Students should come with a basic understanding of story elements (e.g. setting, dialogue, and point of view). Prior workshop experience is recommended.

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.

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- A deeper understanding of how writers use scenes to build stories and novels

- Concrete tools to craft a compelling, active scene for a novel or short story, and to edit scenes already written

- Workshop and instructor feedback on two written submissions

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Submit two complete scenes for workshop (2-6 double-spaced pages each)

- Read and provide feedback, both in-class and written, on 2-3 student submissions for workshop per week


Week 1: What is a Scene?

Week 2: Discovering Character (Emotional Drive & Point of View)

Week 3: Building the Physical World (Setting & Landscape)

Week 4: Dramatizing Conflict (Dramatic Action)

Week 5: Dramatizing Conflict (Dialogue)

Week 6: Sticking the Landing (Transformation & Reflection)

Week 7: Sharpening the Scene (Sentences & Editing)

Week 8: Editing, Publishing, General Review

Lindsey Lee Johnson

Lindsey Lee Johnson holds a master of professional writing degree from the University of Southern California and a BA in English from UC Davis. She's taught writing at USC, Clark College, and Portland State University. Her debut novel, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth (Random House), was a California Book Award Finalist (First Fiction), Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, ABA Indie Next Pick, Book of the Month Club Pick, LibraryReads 'Top Ten' Pick, Publishers Weekly Book of the Week, California Bestseller, and People Magazine's Book of the Week. Born in Marin County, Lindsey lives in Los Angeles. 


“An alarming, compelling and coolly funny debut novel … Ms. Johnson's characters are unpredictable, contradictory and many things at once, which make them particularly satisfying … For its compassion, its ability to see the humanity inside even the most apparently hopeless person and the shimmering intelligence of its prose, THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH reminded me a bit of Rick Moody's THE ICE STORM … heartbreaking.”


“Lindsey Lee Johnson is a sharp, intuitive reader who knows how to cut right to the emotional core of a character or scene. She's exactly the person you would want to critique your first—and last—draft with decisiveness, creativity, and warmth.”

Kate Hope Day author of the novels IF, THEN and IN THE QUICK (Random House)

“I feel lucky to have had the attention and time of such a caring and talented instructor. Lindsey has an incredible ability to care about each one of her students individually. It was extremely clear that she is passionate about writing and genuinely wanted us all to share in that joy. She was enthusiastic and, at the same time, methodical and structured in her teaching. Lindsey’s lessons on writing will serve me for the rest of my life.”

former student

“In sharp and assured prose, roving between characters, Lindsey Lee Johnson plumbs the terrifying depths of a half-dozen ultra-privileged California high school kids. I read it in two chilling gulps. It’s a phenomenal first book.”

Anthony Doerr Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

“In Johnson’s excellent debut, her sharp storytelling conveys an authentic sense of the perils of adolescence … Johnson allows these dramas to unfold through various shifting perspectives … She keeps the action brisk and deepens readers’ investment ... Readers may find themselves so swept up in this enthralling novel that they finish it in a single sitting.”

Publishers Weekly starred review