cancel
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Looking Ahead: Assignment Ideas

0 0 351

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching creative writing is finding new ways to break students out of their routines, getting them to look at their world and describe it a little differently, a little slant. This semester, I gave my introductory students an assignment, based on an exercise of John Gardner’s, in which they wrote 250-word sentences that might appear in a story. The assignment, I hoped, would make unavoidable a deep consideration of details, clarity, pacing, and of course mechanics. It gave them fits, in the best sense—but in the end they cooked up some doozy prose, also in the best sense. In fact, some of the best writing all semester was contained in these long, long sentences. I suspect that’s because when building and wrestling a sentence of that length, students can’t help focusing on the parts and the whole simultaneously. They see that form is content, that punctuation carries meaning, and that this sentence (and, by extension, all sentences) demands nothing less than our most considered attention.

I’m going to use that assignment again.

Next semester, I also plan to spring a “radio drama” assignment on my upper-level fiction workshop. I’m thinking that students would work in pairs, create a drama that is five minutes long, with nothing but dialogue and sound effects. No voiceover. My hope is that the assignment will cause them to pay close attention to dialogue and narrative structure. It should also be fun. We’ll play the finished five-minute recordings in class, maybe burn CDs with everyone’s work—an audio anthology of radio dramas. Perfect for long car rides.

So my question, as this semester draws to a close, is this: What have you got up your sleeve for the spring?

[[This post originally appeared on Litbits on December 28, 2011.]]

About the Author
Michael Kardos received his B.A. from Princeton University, his M.F.A. from Ohio State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He is the author of the novels BEFORE HE FINDS HER (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, 2015) and THE THREE-DAY AFFAIR (Mysterious Press/Grove Atlantic, 2012), as well as the story collection ONE LAST GOOD TIME (Press 53, 2011) and the textbook THE ART AND CRAFT OF FICTION (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013/2017). His fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, and many other magazines and anthologies, and has won a Pushcart Prize. His essays about fiction have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle and Writer’s Digest. He lives in Starkville, Mississippi, where he co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. His website is www.michaelkardos.com.