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Course Information

Instructor Info:Eric Sanders
TA Info:Michael Capodiferro
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Tuesday
09:00 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 104

How do narratives function? What are the basic elements that combine to create a "good story"? This course will address these and other questions in an effort to provide students interested in reading and writing short fiction, film and theatrical scripts with the fundamental skills necessary for analyzing and creating successful narratives. Close readings will seek to reveal how writers are able to grip an audience's attention by building narrative questions, how plots are structured both within scenes and across an entire work, how resonant dialogue can effectively manage to impart information and create subtext, and how characters relate to plot. Classes will combine textual analysis, writing instruction, and peer review. A 100-level writing-intensive course is recommended but not required.

Course Objectives:

Prerequisite: demonstrated ability in writing. Class will meet once a week for three hours. Enrollment is limited to 16.

Evaluation Criteria:


Requirements and Evaluations. To receive an evaluation for this course a student must complete all assignments. These include a short film script (3-5 pages), a short play script (8- 10 pages), and a short story (4-6 pages). It also includes a substantial revision to one of these assignments. Please note, too, that an analytical close reading essay (3-5 pages) may be substituted (with instructor permission) for one or more of the above writing assignments.

In addition to completing written work, students must participate in class and complete all in- class assignments. The strength of the evaluation will be based on synthesis of course concepts as much as the overall success of the completed screenplay, play, or story. Students who integrate material from the course into their writing will receive stronger evaluations than those who do not.

Please note that late assignments will not be accepted. If a student fails to hand in an assignment on time he or she will not receive an evaluation.

Participation and Teamwork. Small peer group workshops may form part of in-class work. Although students are developing their own individual work, as in the professional world, they will not be doing so in a vacuum (critiques from editors, directors, and actors, for example, are inevitable). Because we are writing not as an indulgence, but as an act of communication, to hear from your audience (or a representative sample of peers) is critical to the final product. Moreover, building a supportive environment is critical to the success of the class and it will be every student's responsibility to do so.

Regular attendance. This is a reading- and writing-intensive course based primarily on lively and informed discussion. Students will be expected to attend and participate fully in all class sessions; absences will negatively affect your final evaluation as well as your ability to share in the collaborative project of the course. Timeliness is expected: after a warning, if you are more than 15 minutes late to any class session, you will be marked absent. Any unexcused absences will result in no evaluation.

Preparation. Each week there will be a writing assignment and a reading assignment. Students must come to class prepared with written comments and questions on the reading; lack of preparation will be noted in your final evaluation.

Sensitivity and Respect

Course participants should feel able to express diverse views in an atmosphere of respectful dialogue and engagement. Please be aware of other students' preferred names and pronouns, and use them in discussion.

The following is an excerpt from Hampshire's antidiscrimination and harassment policy (available at

Discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, age, color, national origin, religion, sex (including sex stereotyping), sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, genetic information, transgender status, or military service (henceforth, the “Protected Factors”) is in conflict with the mission of the College and is strictly prohibited by its Policy. Hampshire College is strongly committed to building an inclusive environment and will not tolerate any actions of any individual that violate this Policy.

Incomplete Policy

Incompletes are permitted only in case of emergency. The following is an excerpt from the College policy on incompletes (from Non Satis Non Scire):

To record an incomplete, both student and faculty member will fill out the appropriate form to record the new negotiated deadline by which the student will complete all remaining work for the course. That date will not exceed the first day of the spring semester for a fall incomplete, and June 30th for a spring incomplete.

If the negotiated deadline passes without the faculty member receiving and recording the completed work from the student, the incomplete will be converted to a “No Evaluation.” Faculty have one month from the negotiated date to evaluate the work.

Students experiencing exceptional circumstances that could make it difficult to adhere to any part of this policy should immediately be referred to CASA for assistance with accommodating circumstances.

A Note on Plagiarism

Plagiarism requires disciplinary action by the School Dean and CASA. Please cite sources appropriately in your written assignments, and see the following excerpt from Non Satis Non Scire for further details:

A Note on Computers, Phones, and Other Electronic Devices

None of these are to be turned on in class unless you need accommodations or have explicit instructor permission.

Additional Info:

Required Texts and Materials

(Available for purchase at Amherst Books, Main Street, Amherst)

David Trottier, The Screenwriter's Bible

Syd Field, The Screenwriter’s Workbook

Yasmina Reza, Art

Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog

Joseph Kelly, ed., The Seagull Reader

J.D. Salinger, Nine Stories

An additional suggested text: David Ball, Backwards and Forwards

In addition to your notebook for class, please purchase a second notebook to be used exclusively as a writing journal. You may use this journal for any and all creative writing you do this semester – no one will see it unless you want them to (personally I wouldn't show anyone).