Start at the Beginning: Finding Your Way into Your Next Story

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Taught by Joe Pfister

Joe Pfister is a writer, teacher, and Tecmo Super Bowl enthusiast living in Brooklyn. His fiction has appeared in such publications as PANK, New World Writing, Juked, and decomP, among others. He is a graduate of the MFA Writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and currently serves as an annual juror for The Scholastic Writing Awards and fiction editor of The Boiler Journal.

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The opening of any short story (or novel) represents a promise, a pact between author and reader. It should also, in the words of Ann Hood, “put into motion the events that will drive the story to its resolution.” But, as writers, where do we start? How do we balance the flow of informationwithout overwhelming or, worse, boring the reader?

In this two-hour craft class, we will examine the first sentences and paragraphs of four openings that exemplify the promises a writer can make. By the end of this course, students will leave with a firm grasp of how to employ setting, character, plot, and theme in a way that not only grounds the narrative, but also propels it forward.

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