There is so much to consider when crafting a story – characters, plot, setting etc – and oftentimes, like a moth to a flame, we are drawn to these more “glamorous” parts of the story. We invest hours upon hours on them, tweaking and embellishing in a never-ending quest to push the story that much closer to perfection. It is an innate drive in every artist – and that is what we are after all, artists in the purest sense; taking to words and images, like a mathematician to numbers and shapes. But what happens when we have piled on all that we can onto that draft of the story and yet we are stuck. Yet the story appears to be missing something. That zip; that edge.
In my years teaching and writing, I have discovered that there is a monumental benefit to investing a considerable amount of time in mapping the underlying structure of your story; the skeleton that holds everything in place. There is a benefit to taking a step back and thinking of the structure of your story like a mathematician would; in terms of shapes; of arcs and pyramids. Drawing on Kurt Vonnegut’s lecture on “The Shape of Stories” among other insightful craft lessons, model stories and even films, this workshop would take us down the path to crafting memorable and timeless stories. We’ll write new stories and we’ll revisit old ones. We’ll write both in class and out of it. And by the end of these 10 weeks, we should be crafting solidly-structured stories even in our sleep.
OBI UMEOZOR received his B.A. in English from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria and taught English Literature before moving to the States in 2015, where he obtained an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida State University. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in the New Orleans Review, adda, Shift and others. He has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and is currently a PhD (Fiction) candidate at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.