Interior Landscapes: Creating Depth in Fiction
In the course of your daily life this past week you have had far stranger and more interesting experiences than the one I have tried to describe. You have overheard scraps of talk that filled you with amazement. You have gone to bed at night bewildered by the complexity of your feelings. In one day, thousands of ideas have coursed through your brains; thousands of emotions have met, collided, and disappeared in astonishing disorder." (Virginia Woolf, Mr. Bennet. and Mrs Brown.)
One of the abiding contributions that the novel and short story make is their depiction of interiority, their attempt at representing human consciousness on the page. In this one-day class, we will discuss the various ways that interiority can be made moving and central to our own stories and novels.
We will ask and begin to answer the following questions: How can we represent our characters' interiorities? And in doing so, how do we create a sense both of depth and urgency? To what extent can we suggest this depth through dialogue, gesture, and description? How can the thoughts, feelings and motivations of our characters become compelling landscapes in and of themselves? And how can we describe them with sensitivity, sonorousness and intimacy?
We will read excerpts from novels and short stories by Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, Rachel Cusk, James Baldwin, Jeanette Winterson, Elena Ferrante, Marguerite Duras, Toni Morrison, Andre Aciman, and D.H. Lawrence Through these examples, we will examine the ways feeling and interiority can serve as the central engine of narrative, as well as how to move skillfully between interior and exterior worlds. We will also read short excerpts from our works-in-progress, ask and answer questions of our current characters, generating new material that gets into the beating hearts and vivid minds of our stories and novels.
NOTE: If you would like to share your pre-existing work priot to class, you have the option upload a maximum 1-page double-spaced excerpt of a short story or novel using this link. This sample can be any scene or moment of exposition in which you would like to infuse more depth or interiority.
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