Weeks 5 & 6 Assignment: Jane Bowles

It is often necessary for a writer to distort the particulars of experience in order to see them better. – Wallace Stegner

Consider the balance we discussed today between utterly implausible absurdity and marginally absurd Bowlesian irrationality (Olorin and Joel, consult with your editors). Identify three brief and contrasting characteristic passages (one to five lines apiece) in Two Serious Ladies. Briefly explain (three sentences max) how Bowles achieves her signature eccentricity or behavioral surrealism in the passage. One or two of these examples should be dialogue.

Take these three techniques and weave them (amid other Bowlesian flourishes, if you wish) throughout your story. You may use the passages you worked from in class, and the material you began developing, or you may start over. Always keep in mind Bowles’s balancing act: she’s bending realism, but never breaking it.

Two Serious Ladies begins with a fair amount of background on Mrs. Goering, but as a proportion of the novel the exposition is negligible. Follow this example. Give us the minimum required background information before putting your characters into scene.

Don’t say the old lady screamed–bring her on and let her scream. – Mark Twain

The stories will be evaluated in large part on how your scenes unfold, and on the complexity of the characters’ responses. Nurture conflict, a wellspring of irrationality. And if your character loses her cool, make sure she’s losing it about something other than, or in addition to, what or who is confronting her in the moment.

Finally, a word on length. A lot of stories have been coming in in the sub-1000 word range, many closer to 500, without a convincing story arc or development of character or conflict. Start thinking of 1500 words as your minimum.



Acacia Mays (Olorin Etemad-Lehmer)
Alona Cohen (Ronni Shalev)
Irina Bunčić (Wilma Ewerhart)
Joel Dombrower (Loulou Oudshoorn)
Lola Jalbert (Lindsay Parkhowell)


Loulou Oudshoorn (Joel Dombrower)
Lindsay Parkhowell (Lola Jalbert)
Olorin Etemad-Lehmer (Acacia Mays)
Ronni Shalev (Alona Cohen)
Wilma Ewerhart (Irina Bunčić)

Weeks 5 & 6 Assignment: Jane Bowles

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