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Igniting The Fictional Dream: Setting And The Senses

Ryan Matthews, Writer & Editor

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13 Videos (18m)
    • Introduction

    • Writing A New World

    • Writing At Will And On Command

    • Importance Of Place

    • Reading - Borderland By M.F.K. Fisher

    • Picking A Time, Place, And Milieu

    • The Fictional Dream

    • Reading - A Distant Episode By Paul Bowles

    • Igniting The Fictional Dream

    • Writing Your Setting

    • Reading - Under The Volcano By Malcolm Lowry

    • Revising Your Draft

    • Final Thoughts On Setting


About This Class

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking…Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.
—Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin

Character—check. Plot—yep. Conflict—of course! Setting?

Setting—it’s an underappreciated element of narrative that has a profound impact on plot and character. Actions have vastly different effects depending on the place, time, and milieu.

In this high-energy class we’ll discuss the importance of setting on kick starting what John Gardner describes as the “fictional dream”—that hypnosis readers know so well when they leave the comfort of their chair to embark on a fictional journey. We’ll look at the value of setting a scene to build a stage and situate characters, making it possible for the reader to concretely visualize drama.

We’ll also work on writing “at will and on command”—an idea that will help overcome any sense of writer's block or lack of inspiration.

All students are encouraged to share their scenes from the writing prompt: To transport a reader to a place you’ve never been before!

This is a class for writers of all levels who are looking to make their fiction more vivid and their stories sing with detail. And, by making writing and rewriting a habit, we will gain mastery and authority over our work—the power to give a narrative life beyond the page.

22 of 22 students recommendSee All

I couldn't find the texts for the works he was talking about! Were they on the site? Great course but without the referenced texts I couldn't follow the lessons as well.
Great class. Very insightful instructor. I enjoyed the assigned readings, and GeoGuessr is a great idea to hone your descriptive skills.
This class was very inspirational and so helpful to my work. In particular, thinking about "the fictional dream" helped me translate what I love about reading into how I approach the page as a writer. And I loved the readings, which introduced me to authors I was not very familiar with. And Matthews is such a warm, comfortable presence on camera. I really dug this class.





Ryan Matthews

Writer & Editor

Ryan D. Matthews is a writer and editor originally from Washington State and now based in Brooklyn, New York.

His writing can be found in the Huffington Post, the Brooklyn Rail, and the Tottenville Review and he is at work on a novel for which he has received fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, the Jentel Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, and Can Serrat International Art Center. He is a Voting Member of the National Book Critics Circle.

He's taught creative writing thr...

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