Week 1: Free indirect faction (Group 1)

For the first assignment, let’s continue to pursue the exercise of free indirect / close third-person narration. Let’s also double down on the practice of literary theft. Ransack the examples Wood gives, and the Updike, and other works of fiction if you choose, and identify at least five instances of distinct free-indirect narration, moments when you really hear a non-third-person voice muscle in. Then adapt those models to your purposes, and put the inspiration in a footnote. For example, your story could include the sentence, “That was the year the sophomore class was assigned 1984. Frankie’s birth year, so you could never see someone’s pile of books without remembering.” And in your footnote: John Updike, Rabbit at Rest: “2001. Will he be alive?” (Yes, you may still use this model–Orwell or Kubrick–I haven’t used it up.)

If you choose unassigned works as inspiration, please bring them to class on Tuesday.

As for subject matter, let’s also continue with what we worked on today. Look through what you wrote in class and find the part that came easily, or with some energy, that seems the most potent or interesting to develop. Make sure there is a specific moment or movement that you are building on or toward: a conflict that comes to a head, a revelation, a shift in understanding. Fictionalize freely, but start with your own story (what Carrie Fisher calls “faction).

As for length, this is more a question of shape than size. If you can bring your five footnoted free-indirect adaptations and a compelling arc or character movement in under 500 words, I salute you. If you can make 5000 words fly by so I don’t notice the length, bravo. But let’s aim for something somewhere in the middle.

One last thing about the assignment I want to emphasize because it goes for all six: FOLLOW THE ASSIGNMENT. You could turn in something utterly beautiful and boiled down and publishable, but if it’s missing (in this case) the five footnoted free-indirect adaptations, or is manifestly far afield from your autobiography, I will praise its merits and apologize for marking it down. The assignments are specific exercises that are evaluated on how well they rise to a particular challenge, as much as on their intrinsic merit.

Below are the writers and, in parentheses, editors for our first assignment. Please refer to the Course Handbook and carefully review the editor’s responsibilities (along with the rest of the document–LT212 has a lot of moving parts). Editors, in addition to preparing a crit for the writer, and presenting the work to the class, please also write out your thoughts and hand that to the writer for inclusion in the portfolio. That practice will also help you clarify your thinking about the work.

The first five pairs are registered for the course, the last three are writing on spec, so to speak, as we’re waiting to hear from Nicole whether a second section can accommodate you. I’m not wildly optimistic, since we’re only 15 and that is more likely to shrink than expand during add/drop. In any case, I hope we can resolve this before we meet Feb 2, and to that end, please keep me and Nicole apprised of your intentions if you decide you don’t want to take the class after all.

If you have friends who signed up for the course and still wish to take it, urge them to be in touch with me and Nicole. (I was more optimistic about the chances of a second section when the class list was at 18.)


  • Acacia Mays (Loulou Oudshoorn)
  • Alona Cohen (Manon Aycoberry)
  • Irina Bunčić (Olorin Etemad-Lehmer)
  • Joel Dombrower (Ronni Shalev)
  • Lola Jalbert (Wilma Ewerhart)
  • Amanda Mazen Awadallah (Tamam Musleh)
  • Benjamin Sivo (Paul Festa)
  • Sidney Williams (Lindsay Parkhowell)

Reading response prompts will be posted tomorrow night.

If you’re ahead on the reading, do not give up that advantage! Get a head start on Flaubert, or read further into Wood. You will thank yourselves profusely if you manage your time such that you can blow past the assigned excerpts and read these exquisite novels and collections in their entirety.

Last, let me remind you that my office hours are by appointment, and I am available to you via email pretty much always. If anything about the Course Handbook, assignments, reading or anything else is unclear, please write. I’m here to help.

Week 1: Free indirect faction (Group 1)

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