Character and plot are often taught as interdependent elements of story. In this two-part course we consider a vital third element: place.
Imagine Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights without the British moorland, or N.K. Jeminson’s Broken Earth Trilogy, set anywhere but a seismically unstable planet. Imagine Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones apart from the hurricane-stricken and poverty-scarred coast Gulf Coast, or Cara Black’s Aimée LeDuc mystery series without Paris, France. Imagine Edward P. Jones’ stunning story collection Lost in the City without Washington DC. Great stories and great characters grow from and exist within compelling places.
In our two weeks together, we will discuss the utility of place in stories and novels (such as those mentioned above), and we will examine how a character’s (or community’s) relationship to place informs the plot of our own works-in-progress. We’ll consider place as metaphor, as character, and as theme. We’ll learn how a well-drawn place can generate and amplify tension within a scene. We’ll learn tools to craft imaginary, fantastical, historical, or contemporary places in our fiction. Throughout the course, we’ll apply what we learn with writing exercises that will benefit emerging and established writers alike. The course will feature a healthy balance between reading, discussion, writing, and workshopping. The writers in this class will discover new insights into their characters and plots, and learn to create landscapes that fully engage a reader.
Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust and Reliance, Illinois. Her essays, reviews, and short stories have appeared in various publications, including Mutha Magazine, The Common Politic, Women’s Basketball Magazine, Fiction Writers Review, Brevity, The New Orleans Review, and Ploughshares (online).
After earning a master’s degree at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Mary earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College (CA). She has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and was the spring 2015 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Residence at Saint Mary’s College.