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Azin Arefi - English

EWRT 40: Intro to Fiction Writing

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EWRT 40 is an introductory creative writing course for students who wish to explore and refine their techniques of prose fiction through both critical analysis and intensive practice in creative writing.  This class emphasizes the fundamental elements of creative writing: character, conflict, plot, setting and atmosphere, point-of-view, imagery, language, and dialogue. During the first half of the quarter, we will read and discuss published stories, trying to understand how authors make successful use of various literary tools. We will explore elements of fiction with in-class and take-home assignments, using Writing Fiction as a technical guide. The second half of the quarter is devoted to the fiction workshop of your own stories. The ultimate goal of this course is to put the elements of fiction writing together in well-crafted stories.

Course Prerequisite:

Eligibility is established through successful completion of or qualifying for EWRT 1A. 

Course Objectives:

  • Identify the major technical and stylistic elements of diverse literary works and analyze their role in imaginative writing.
  • Recognize the socio-cultural context of diverse literary works and apply to analysis of literary style and content.
  • Analyze and critique diverse student and professional examples of literary/imaginative writing.
  • Apply knowledge of creative process, literary elements/techniques, cultural knowledge and self-knowledge, and critical lessons to your own writing.

Course Requirements:

  • Regular attendance and active participation in class discussions.
  • Keeping up-to-date on writing assignments and readings.
  • Two stories, one of which will be revised.
  • Manuscript critiques of each student story during workshop.
  • Unannounced quizzes, in-class assignments, and presentations.

Required Texts:

  • Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, 7th Edition
  • A Course Reader, available from the instructor.

Course Evaluation

The grade break down is shown in the table below: 

Assignment Percentage
Story #1 10%
Story #1 Revised 20%
Story #2 20%
Quizzes 10%
Participation 10%
Workshop Critiques 20%
Writing Exercises 10%
Total 100%


Grading Scale:

100-95% = A, 94-90 = A-, 89-85% = B, 84-80=B-, 79-75% = C, 74-70=C-, 69-60% = D, 59%-below = F 

Course Assignments:

Reading Assignments and Exercises: Students are expected to keep up with the assigned reading and should be prepared to lead discussions in class. Leadership and participation in these discussions will be reflected in your grade. There will be in-class and take-home writing assignments. In-class writing exercises can be quite brief and fragmentary; take-home exercises are more sustained, formal pieces of writing. Please be prepared to share all writing exercises in class.

Quizzes: The pop quizzes measure your preparation for class and your understanding of class lecture and concepts covered. Quizzes will be given at the beginning of the class period so do not be late.  They are meant to reward you for your preparation and your on-time attendance.

Participation: You are expected to come to this class prepared with paper, pen, appropriate text, having completed the reading and all assignments due, and ready to participate in class discussion. Whether as a class or if you are in small groups, your contribution is required and necessary.  You will be a crucial member of a writing community.

Workshops: The workshop is the heart of this class and we will discuss it in great detail when the time arrives, but as a general overview: you are to treat one another's work with respect, as you would like yours to be treated; you will point out the positive and make helpful constructive criticism in order to help build the story, not to tear it down; you are to be specific in your comments as generalities such as "I liked the plot" are not helpful. Be honest. Be brave, both in your writing and in your critique.  Students must also provide a one to two page critique of each of the stories being workshopped, and bring two copies, one for me and one for the author.

Course Policies:

Attendance: Attendance every day is required. You should come to class on time, having done the reading and prepared to discuss. Because this is a workshop, your contribution in class is extremely important. Attendance is crucial to the exchange of ideas and words that take place in class. If you have to be absent, please call to excuse yourself.  If you have three unexcused absences, I will assume that you have withdrawn, and give you a W. Absent students will not be able to make up missed in-class assignments. More than three absences are considered excessive and will be reflected in your grade. Repeated tardiness is also unacceptable.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas in direct quote, paraphrase, or summary form and submitting them as your own. This class demands originality and honesty.  All work submitted in this class must be your own individual work. I expect no copying or cheating whatsoever, at any time, by any student. Plagiarism may result in automatic failure of the course.

Late work: As a rule, late work will not be accepted. If emergencies arise, please see me in advance of the due date. If the late work is accepted, it will be marked down for every class that it is late.

Format: Stories and take-home exercises should be typed in 12-point font on regular white paper, double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around. Please include your name, the date and page numbers, and staple when appropriate.

Respect: In class we will be discussing a lot of issues as well as one another’s writing. Each individual person's opinion must be respected. You are to listen to each other and be considerate of one another at all times. You can disagree with someone, but always in a respectful manner. It is important that we have a safe classroom environment for sharing our writings and ideas. Any disruptive or disrespectful behavior to me or to your fellow classmates may be cause for dismissal from the class and possible failure of the course. As part of respect, please remember to turn off cell phones,  pagers, etc.  as they are disruptive to the class. In case they do go off, you will bring us treats to make up for it. J  

And finally…welcome to EWRT 40! I am sure we are going to have a great and productive quarter! Be creative!! 

Note: This green sheet is subject to change with advanced notice.

Daily Assignments and Deadlines


Week 1:  Story Form, Plot, and Structure

Monday September 25th:


Gordon Lish, “Fear: Four Examples”

Wednesday September 27th:

Burroway: “Story Form, Plot, and Structure” pg. 30-48

Burroway: William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force” pg. 48-51

Burroway: Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings” pg. 64-66 

Week 2: Showing and Telling

Monday October 2nd:

Burroway: “Showing and Telling” pg. 74-88

Burroway: Sandra Cisneros, “Linoleum Roses” pg. 89

Burroway: Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” pg. 90-102

Burroway: Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” pg. 102-115

Wednesday October 4th:

Reader: Joyce Carol Oates, “Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film”

In-class Movie: Smooth Talk (1985) 

Week 3: Characterization

Monday October 9th:

Burroway: “Characterization, Part I” pg. 118-129

Reader: Katherine Mansfield, “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”

Reader: J.D. Salinger, “The Perfect Day for Bananafish”

Wednesday October 11th:

Burroway: “Characterization, Part II” pg. 157-180

Reader: Philip Roth, “Conversion of the Jews”

Reader: J.D. Salinger, “For Esme, With Love & Squalor” 

Week 4: Fictional Place and Time

Monday October 16th:

Burroway: “Fictional Place and Time” pg. 198-218

Burroway: Monifa A. Love, “Mount Olive” pg. 218

Burroway: Tobias Wolff, “Bullet in the Brain” pg. 248-251

Wednesday October 18th:

Reader: Richard Ford, “Optimists”

Reader: A. Manette Ansay, Excerpt from Vinegar Hill 

Week 5: Point of View

Monday October 23rd:

Burroway: “Point of View, Part I” pg. 254-267

Reader: Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain”  

Wednesday October 25th:

Burroway: “Point of View, Part II” pg. 287-299

Burroway: Julia Alvarez, “Snow” pg. 302

Reader: Robert Coover, “The Babysitter”  

Week 6: Theme & Revision

Monday October 30th:

Burroway: “Theme” pg. 357-366 (including Grace Paley “A Man Told Me The Story of His Life”)

Reader: Alice Munro, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”

Wednesday November 1st:

Burroway: “Revision” pg. 395-407

In-Class Movie: Brokeback Mountain (2005)  

Week 7:

Monday November 6th:

Workshop Story #1

Wednesday November 8th:

Workshop Story #1 

Week 8:

Monday November 13th

Workshop Story #1

Wednesday November 15th

Workshop Story #1 

Week 9:

Monday November 20th:

Workshop Story #2

Wednesday November 22nd:

Workshop Story #2 

Week 10:

Monday November 27th:

Workshop Story #2

Wednesday November 29th:

Workshop Story #2 

Week 11:

Monday December 4th:

Workshop Story #1 Revised

Wednesday December 6th:

Workshop Story #1 Revised 

Week 12: Final Exam

Monday December 11th:

Workshop Story #1 Revised 

Final Exam:

Thursday December 14th, 4:00 – 6:00 pm

email icon Email: Azin Arefi
phone icon Phone: 408.864.8547


Last Updated: 4/25/16