This class is for anyone who has stared at the classic mountain-shaped plot diagram—rising action, climax, denouement—and been puzzled about how to actually apply it to their own work. I’ll suggest other ways of thinking about plot and draw alternate diagrams. We’ll work together to see how various models apply to stories we all know (and some we probably don’t) and discover how these new ways of thinking can help us see our own work more clearly. We’ll explore what happens if we stretch the idea of plot to its limits (do poems have plots?) and ask whether we even need to have one at all. Through reading, writing, analyzing, and discussing, we will aim to become masters of plot rather than its servants. The class welcomes writers in any genre and at all levels.
Rachel Pastan’s most recent novel, Alena, was named an “Editors’ Choice” in The New York Times Book Review. She is also the author of two other novels, Lady of the Snakes and This Side of Married, which was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. In 2014 she edited Seven Writers, a chapbook of writing inspired by exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where until recently she served as Editor-at-Large. She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a member of the Core Faculty in Fiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars M.F.A. program. She also teaches fiction at Swarthmore College.