For seventeen years, Odyssey has pursued its mission to help developing writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror improve their work by holding its annual six-week, in-person workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Three years ago, Odyssey expanded its mission, taking the teaching techniques that are so effective at the workshop and adapting them to create online classes. Director Jeanne Cavelos explains, “Technology allows us to hold live online class meetings, so students can ask questions and participate in the class. Each course is designed to provide intensive focus on a particular aspect of fiction writing, and challenging homework assignments help students to improve their skills. Feedback from the instructor and from classmates allows students to gauge their progress. Each student also has an individual meeting with instructor.” Courses provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere, with class size limited to fourteen students. While courses are designed for adult writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, interested writers of other genres are welcome to apply.
Last winter, Odyssey had a huge response to the three online courses offered. Writers from all over the world applied. This year, Odyssey is offering three different online courses covering some of the most critical issues for developing writers:
Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction
Course Meets: January 2 – 30, 2013
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 7, 2012
When we first offered this course in 2011, we received more interest than in any course taught before or since. So we’re offering it again, to provide more writers the chance to learn the exciting possibilities inherent in this plot structure. One of the greatest weaknesses of developing writers is plot. One of the best tools for strengthening plot is the act. Plotting in acts creates a more suspenseful, unpredictable, and emotionally satisfying experience for the reader. This course will start by defining key units of structure–the scene, chapter, and act–and explore why we need acts. We’ll discuss the effect of acts, the importance of acts, how acts work in short fiction and novels, and how acts are used in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. How does one identify an act? When are three acts appropriate? Why are three acts so popular and powerful? We’ll learn how to plot in three acts. We’ll explore what makes a strong three-act plot and what makes a weak three-act plot. We’ll look at powerful methods and weak methods of ending an act. We’ll explore how to create a causal chain that generates escalations and a strong climax, how subplots work within three-act structure, the connection between structure and character transformation, and the unifying role of theme.
Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel
Course Meets: January 7 – February 4, 2013
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 11, 2012
Barbara Ashford believes the most important skill a novelist needs is to be able to see the “big picture” of the novel, to understand where that big picture is lacking or weak, and to make the major changes necessary to create a coherent, complete, powerful, and unified novel. Barbara believes this skill made all the difference in her writing, transforming it from promising but unsalable to compelling and published. Writers often approach revisions as an opportunity to polish their manuscripts rather than to take a hard look at the story itself. If your plot meanders and your protagonist’s goals are unclear, polishing your prose won’t help. This course examines the “big picture” elements at the foundation of every novel: premise, promise, theme, world, character, and plot. Whether you’ve already completed your first draft, are still working on it, or are struggling with revisions, analyzing and strengthening those elements can lift your novel out of the slush pile and onto an agent’s desk. Award-nominated author Barbara Ashford will examine each of these big picture elements and the ways that linking them can create a unified, compelling, powerful story. Through lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, students will analyze their premise, the promise that the novel is making to readers, the themes that arise from the novel, the world they have created, their protagonists’ backstory, motivations, and goals, and the plot events they have chosen to lead the reader from the story’s promise to its climax.
Bodies and Heartbeats: Crafting Character from the Inside Out
Course Meets: January 23 – February 20, 2013
Instructor: Elaine Isaak
Application Deadline: December 27, 2012
If you will try being fictional for a while, you will find that fictional characters are sometimes
more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.
In her critiques as a guest lecturer at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and as a critiquer for the Odyssey Critique Service, Elaine Isaak has become legendary for identifying weaknesses in character and suggesting brilliant yet simple ways to strengthen characters. This course will help you to develop a clearer sense of what makes a powerful character and will teach you the techniques you need to develop strong characters. The first duty of the fiction writer is to make the reader care about people that don’t exist. In this course, we’ll talk about how to create the core of a sympathetic character and bring that character to life through words so that the reader invests in the dreams and challenges of your imagined people. Students will study and discuss examples, perform exercises to practice creating sympathetic and believable characters, and write short-shorts that put these new skills into practice. Students will also provide critiques of their classmates’ work.
More information about our online classes can be found here: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/online.html or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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PLEASE NOTE: Those application deadlines are coming up soon! If you would like to apply for more than one course, you must apply separately for each one.
Odyssey’s Online Classes pack valuable content into each session, allow for significant interaction with the instructor, and provide assignments that challenge students. The classes provide the tools students need to improve their writing, along with feedback on their work that reveals whether they are successfully using those tools. Cavelos says, “If you’re ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them, you’d be welcome to apply to our online classes.”
In addition, the Odyssey Web site, www.odysseyworkshop.org, offers many resources for writers, including free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, a writing blog, a critique service, and information about the six-week in-person workshop.
The journey to take your writing to the next level starts now!