Writing the Great American Short Story

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Course Description

Are you a daydreamer? Why not turn your daydreams into short stories? In this class, we'll take an introductory approach to the traditional methods of writing the Great American Short Story. Through the course discussion and the study of great American writers like Annie Proulx, Richard Bausch, and  Lorrie Moore, you'll gain the inspiration and momentum to complete your own 3000 - 8000 word short story.

The lesson topics are:

1.    The Short Story Landscape in America
2.    Answering to the Muse
3.    Developing a Main Character
4.    Telling the Story: Structure & Plot
5.    Styling the Words You Write
6.    Ending Your Story Like a Master
7.    Revising Your Writing

This class has five assignments, all of which center on the creation of a polished and possibly publishable short story (depending on your ability).The short story is the final assignment (included in the set of five).

Course Requirements

Highly Recommended Textbook:

The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: 50 North American Stories Since 1970 (Touchstone Books)

This book is available on Amazon.com and other online retailers. You do not have to buy the textbook to complete the course, but you will gain more from the lessons if you do; stories from this book are mentioned throughout the course.

All students in this class should be able to read and write at the college level.

Course Goals

1) Understanding of the Great American Short Story
2) Awakening of Your Creative Skills
3) Conception and Creation of a 3000 - 8000 Word Short Story

Course Materials

All you need is a place to write.

Grading Policy

Students must achieve 70% or higher to pass this course. Students who pass can purchase a certificate if they wish to do so. Students who successfully complete the short story assignment may submit their story to the course blog.

All assignments and tests have points assigned to them. To calculate your grade percentage at any point during the course, divide your points earned by the points possible to date.


This is not a workshop course. You will not be required to share your work witth your classmates unless you want to. Only the instructor will be reading and commenting on your final story. However, that doesn't mean that your writing won't see the light of day: You may submit your final story to the class blog . The instructor will select one story per week for blog publication. No stories will be posted without author permission.

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Know the short story landscape in America.
  • Describe developing a main character.
  • Know telling the story.
  • Describe styling the words you write.
  • Know ending your story like a master.
  • Revise and edit the story, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Assessment Guide

Assessment Points
Assignment 1A: Class Forum Postings1
The Short Story Landscape10
Assignment 2: Write the First Page of Your Story10
Answering to the Muse10
Assignment 3: Character Profile Worksheet5
Developing a Main Character10
Telling the Story: Structure & Plot9
Styling the Words You Write10
Assignment 4: Finish Your Short Story30
End Your Story Like a Master10
Revising Your Writing10
Total Points:115

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