Give a High School Level Creative Writing Class Some Advice
- 1."Write for the kid sitting next to you." ...Literature is meant to be contemporary writing for one's contemporaries. Consider an Opening Paragraph Competition: each student reads the opening paragraph of a creative piece out loud, and the class votes on which piece(s) they want to hear continued. Are these the best pieces? Very often, yes: the most interesting, sordid, relevant, well-composed. But not always. This, too, could be an interesting conversation.
- 2.P. J. O' Rourke's satire assignment. ...The humorist P. J. O'Rourke once said that if he taught a writing class, he would assign parodies of all the greats studied in class. It is a great way to motivate oneself to study what makes a writing style tick, he said. Perhaps the assignment would be to tell a modern tale of popular culture in the styles of different great writers being studied.
- 3.Autofiction. ...A current trend in fiction is "autofiction": stories so detailed and personal that the line between fiction and autobiography becomes unclear. (Karl Ove Knausgaard's six volume "My Struggle" series is the new standard bearer.) An assignment in which students read autofiction and then write a page of autofiction, inviting the class to speculate what is true and what isn't.
- 4.Microfiction. ...Another trend in fiction is microfiction: extremely short, but complete, works of fiction. Often but not always abstract. The most famous example is Hemingway's six word story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") The current standard bearer is Lydia Davis. Here the lines blur between fiction, poetry, and even social media. Read, write, and share original works of microfiction, and speculate as to the best home for such works. The answer, after all, belongs to this generation.