Port Townsend Algonkian Workshop Syllabus

Successful literary and commercial authors provide models for study purposes, and as a result, our writers are able to apply competitive narrative and plot craft in the context of their own novel. We refer to this method as "model-and-context." Using this Algonkian method, writers will focus on creating a single breakout work within their chosen genre. 

Writers read, analyze and discuss novel elements of plot, complication and drama, theme, scene construction, narrative, prose style, and other craft techniques learned from the following authors/playwrights below. 

See also our pre-event articles and assignments that complement the syllabus.



1. What The Successful Author Must Possess

     Platform-Premise-Execution at 110%, Market Basics, "The Plan," Craft Basics,   
     Purpose-Passion-Tenacity, Single Best Author Tool + A Great Pitch.


    Exercise: Students role play as senior editorial staff at Random House and review a manuscript submission, arguing either for acceptance or rejection of the author's work. Study guide readings and discussion.


2. Market Reality and Pragmatic Thinking

Author Needs vs. Market Demands, Nuances of Genre vs. "Literary", What the Commercial Caesar Demands, Insider Info, Fierce Competition and Agent Targeting, From the Heart But Smart, Pitching the Novel, Log Lines and Query Letters. Algonkian agent and workshop faculty
    Discussion, Q&A, novel pitch sessions and reaction.


3. Drama's Most Powerful Elements in The Novel

Drama Theory, Statement of Conflict, Rising Action, Three Act Structure, 15 Steps of Complication, Reader Reaction Flow. Dryden, H. Miller, Krutch, Kesey
    Exercise and Assignments: creation and elaboration on each student's major conflict/complication in the novel and in synch with practicing the novel pitch. Study Guide readings and discussion.


4. The Intellectual Trace of Theme

Statement of Theme, Importance, Application and Representation, the Ripple Effect and Impact of Theme Throughout the Novel. Malraux, West, Kesey, Ionesco, Neff
    Exercise: creation of a primary theme statement for novel. Study Guide readings and discussion.


5. Know Your Story, Know Your Characters

Animation Sketching, Cognition and Affect, Social Reaction Profile, Ticks and Tags, Epiphany and Emotional Evolution, The Power of Great Antagonists, Sympathetic Protagonist in First Ten Pages. Patchett, Martel, Kidd, Albom, S. Anderson, E. Brontë, Fitzgerald, West, Hemingway
    Exercise: students sketch a unique and sympathetic protagonist in the context of the first ten pages of their novel. Study Guide readings and discussion.


6. Plot Devices and Other Needs

Scene Construction, Verisimilitude, POV, Masking, Foreshadow, Timesim, Exposition, Surprise, Minor Complication, Suspense Techniques, Character Arcs, and more. McInerney, O'Connor, Zola, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ibsen, O'Connor, R.P. Warren, West, Knowles, Nabokov
    Exercise: diagram a prototype plot flow for novel. Study Guide readings and discussion.


7. Story Enhancement Techniques

Stages of Event, Narrative Energy, Seeding of Tension and Sub-events, Anecdotal Devices, Imagery, the Human Condition, and IMAGINATION. Robert Graves
    Exercise: construct and write a pre-defined scene that highlights setting, conflict, and metaphor. Study guide readings and discussion.


8. Strong Narrative Through Synergy

Prose Enhancement Guides, Compare and Contrast of Narrative Styles, The Art of Fiction; Subject Matter vs. Prose. Chabon, Godwin, Neff, Kosinski, Kingsolver, Updike, Proulx, Marquez, Brontë
    Exercise: construct and write a pre-defined scene that highlights dialogue, interior monologue, and suspense.


9. Dialogue: Never a Gratuitous Word

Screen and Stage Dialogue, Major Functions, Show Don't Tell, Need for Inclusion of Specific Elements, Types of Dialogue, Narrative Interjections, Character Roles in Scene. R. Price, Joyce, T. Williams, Hemingway
    Exercise: given back story, students write one major scene with dialogue, noting pivotal points.


10. Prose Enhancement and Publication

Prose drills, prose narrative guides, structure reference guides, the perfect synopsis. Meetings with agent and editor to discuss student work and publication possibilities. Shakespeare, Roethke, Welty, M. Martone, Plath, Chabon, and many more.
    Exercise: specific drills designed to hone competitive style. Students leave with a specific plan to realistically approach publication of their novel ms.
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