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  1. #11
    s glen

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    I teach in a community college and I can tell you students LOVE it when they don't have to sit in their desks. Why not take them outside...to anywhere but the classroom, and ask them to think about characters? For example, you might go to the cafeteria and imagine that someone has just shot the cashier dead. Then go back to the classroom and ask the students to think hard and remember the details in the cafeteria from all senses. What was the weather like outside? What did the food smell like? What were the noises? What did the Formica on the table feel like? Now ask them to think of a fictitious setting, and write details about it.

    Hope that helps a little. Designing a course is not easy...you usually only know what 'works' once you've actually gone in with the students. I can't tell you how many lesson plans I've scrapped

  2. #12
    Jonathan Odell

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Boy, I'm quite overwhelmed! This has been my first post (and request for help) on this forum and I'm reeling from how generous folks have been with thier advise and expereiences. This has also led to some great off-line discussions about wrting in the material world. Some have asked for more information about the three-hour workshop I've been aksed to present, so I'll paste the course discription below.

    I've never taught a course on writing before and was asked to fill a gap in the novel curriculum at the local literary center (The Loft in MPLS). So I'm feeling quite the fruad.

    Thanks again for your support and encouragement. Who knows, maybe a wrting manual could be compiled from all this great advice. Anyone?


    Grounding Your Novel in the Material World
    A Three-Hour Workshop

    One of the problems many aspiring novelists face is how to move their stories out of the hazy realm of psyche, memory, prescriptive emotion, and backstory and into the physical world, suffused with weather, history, flora and fauna, flesh, blood and bone. As the playwright Anton Chekhov advised, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” For a reader, it is the difference between reading the menu and eating the food.

    The design of this three-hour workshop is one-third lecture and two-thirds experiential. Working with either their own material or with passages provided by the instructor, participants will translate the mundane into the sublime, by applying the following four concepts covered in lecture:

    • Inferring feeling without naming emotions.
    • Enlisting “place” as a character.
    • Transforming the psychological into the physical.
    • Giving voice to the elements.
    _Showing time without watches, calendars, or history lessons.

  3. #13
    Daniel James Brown

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    The class sounds great. I love the Chekhov quote.

    When I taught writing I always included a field assignment in which the students had to go to one of several places in San Jose and then write a descriptive essay using some of the techniques we'd discussed in class. The places I chose for them were notably mundane yet rich in sensory detail--a video-game arcade, an army-navy surplus store, the county fair, an auto wrecking yard, etc. Many of the best essays came from a ravine in San Jose into which people had thrown old washing machines and bikes and such.

    Mind you, this was just for freshman English students, not novelists. But the exercise foreced them out into the world and almost always produced interesting results.

  4. #14
    Mya Bell

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    That's a very well written course description. I'm sure there will be interest in the course.

    Best of luck with your class, Jon.

    --- Mya Bell

  5. #15
    mar quesa

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"


    I'm a bit confused. You're targeting novelists but the course description above doesn't seem to be directly connected to the "novel writing" process.
    So my question is: How do you apply those concepts to "novel writing"?

    Also, I think you need to think about the aim(s)of the course.

  6. #16
    Jonathan Odell

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Hey mar quesa,

    Not sure I'm following. Could you explain more, or could someone else clarify for me?



  7. #17
    Daniel James Brown

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Ummm, Mar quessa,

    Jon's objectives seem very well defined and very clearly articulated here. He's not proposing to teach "the novel writing process." He's quite specific in his original mail and in his course description that he wants his students to focus on making their writing more concrete, more physical, more grounded in the kinds of particular details that pull a reader into a story and give it resonance, texture, emotional weight.

    More power to him. These are among the most important things that beginning writers fail to pull off convincingly, and their novels fail as a result.

  8. #18
    Steven Labri

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    R – I find the comparison interesting, although I admit, I don’t understand.

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