Not every story needs the cranked-up tension of Indiana Jones fleeing a boulder-sized bowling ball, and not every novel needs the nail-biting suspense of a murder mystery; but if a reader doesn’t care what’s happening scene to scene, or the plot doesn’t intrigue us on some level, the jig is up. In this weekend session, open to all levels, we’ll explore the basics of plotting and look for answers to perennial questions: How much information should we withhold? How off-balance do we want the reader to be and for how long? How high do the stakes have to be? Through guided exercises, we’ll explore how tension can beef up scenes. In addition, we’ll discuss some of the ways (we could never cover them all!) that writers approach the larger patterns of promises, revelations, and twists.
Hugh Ferrer (M.F.A. in fiction, The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop) is a senior editor at The Iowa Review and the associate director of The University of Iowa International Writing Program. He has taught a variety of courses at The University of Iowa, introducing undergraduates to fiction writing, international literature, journal publishing, and Iowa City’s literary culture.