Despite being super busy with all my editing, I have decided to revisit the basics and signed up to Coursera’s ‘The Craft of Plot,’ which is a four-week course being taught by Brando Skyhorse, a creative writing professor at Wesleyan University.

The course examines plot with regards to:

  • How plot is different to story
  • What keeps plot moving
  • How it manipulates feelings, expectations, and desires
  • How to show and not tell when writing scenes
  • Examines the choices storytellers take with regards to grabbing our imaginations, dragging them into a fictional world, and keeping them there.
  • How to outline and structure a plot
  • Discuss the narrative arc, pacing and reversals and reveal the inevitable surprise
  • Connecting the beginning, middle and end

[divider]As with all Coursera courses, the delivery of this material is via videos (and I’m really hoping there will be transcripts as I prefer studying via written text). I will also be intrigued to see if this course really is 1-2 hours of study a week as it claims. I enrolled for a course with Coursera a couple of years ago and the few hours a week it suggested it would take failed to mention the need to read lots of fiction books alongside it, so we’ll see how this works out with The Craft of Plot.

I believe I will also need to write a short story and get feedback (and provide critique to fellow students), which should be interesting because I hate writing short stories. I always make them too big for the word count (as pointed out by both my creative writing tutors at the Open University. They were right, of course – all the short stories I wrote during those modules have since been developed into novel length stories).

On this basis, it will be interesting to see if I can pass this course but I shall try my best to write a small, self-contained story without a spiral of subplots and layers. Either way, it’ll be nice to revisit the subject of plot, and will hopefully allow me to put any new learning into practice when authors come to me for developmental editing.

And finally, just to keep me on my toes, I dragged invited Steve Frost of Steve Frost Editing Services Ltd to join me.

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Wesleyan University

Syllabus

Week 1

Plotting a Course

  1. What Is Plot?
  2. How Plot Works in Harry Potter
  3. Character + Action = Plot
  4. Assignment
  1. Assignment: The Escalator

Week 2

The Power of Structure

  1. What Is Structure?
  2. ABDCE Structure Examples from Famous Works of Literature
  3. Visiting Writer: How Structure and Outlines Can Help Organize Your Plot and the Story You Want to Tell (with Douglas Martin)
  4. Assignment
  1. Assignment: What’s Up, Doc?

Week 3

A Scene in Motion

  1. What Is a Scene?
  2. Examples of Effective Scenes
  3. Shop Talk with Amity Gaige: How Setting and Description Make a Scene Come Alive
  4. Assignment
  1. Assignment: Show, Don’t Tell

Week 4

Cut It Out

  1. Editing and Revision
  2. Shop Talk with Amy Bloom: Defining Wants and Needs; Creating Characters with Strong Motivations and Desires
  3. Shop Talk with Salvatore Scibona: Language that Gets Rewritten vs Language that Gets Cut Out
  4. Assignment
  1. Assignment: The Whole Story

 

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