Literary Mash-Ups with J. S. Breukelaar

The barbarians are at the gates of literary fiction. It's time to think differently about “genre”. J.S. Breukelaar is here to guide you to the final frontier—where anything goes.

Your Instructor: J.S. Breukelaar, author of ALETHEIA

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: February 27, 2018 - March 27, 2018

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $350

Class Description

The walls are coming down. 

Thanks to authors like George Saunders (weird ghosts), Jeff Ford (fantastical horror), Jeremy Robert Johnson (biznoirro), Angela Slatter (fairy tales with bite) and Kelly Link, whose stunning fantasy, “Stone Animals,” was included in Best American Short Stories, the lines dividing one set of genre conventions from another, can be blurred to stunning effect—and that’s what today’s publishers and editors are looking for.

The genre barbarians are at the gate, and getting all up in the guts of what used to be called 'literary fiction,’ and the result is dark fantasy with sf elements, crime fiction with ghosts, vampires with artificial intelligence—the sky is literally the limit, and the old rules no longer apply.

Of that sounds like you—fascinated with Japanese horror yet knee-deep in a western sf novel, or if your crime story draws from Norse mythology, or American folk tales, or your fairy tales features robot romance—consider yourself home. Some of the most in-demand fiction today includes the best elements from multiple genres and styles in one big mosh-pit of surreal Gothic hellraising.

J.S. Breukelaar is the acclaimed author of the futuristic wild west horror novel, American Monster; Aletheia, a noir ghost-story with a sci-fi twist, and the upcoming collection, Collision, which includes dystopian ghost tales, Halloween war stories, alien gender-bending, body-horror romance, and a zombie novella for the AI age.

And, over four weeks of intense writing, plus exposure to some of the ground-breaking genre-benders making waves today—you will discover new techniques to pull the most powerful elements from countless genres—into a story with the kind of heart and soul editors are looking for.

What This Class Covers

Week 1: Character

The heart of fiction—does your passerine detective have one? Learn how to hook your reader, and kick-start your story, with that one human moment impossible to turn away from. Learn—using techniques of dialogue, silence, action and stillness true to your story—how to make the reader care about your characters.

Week 2: World-building

Slipstream, steampunk, fantastika, twisted Grim, magical realism—if these are your worlds, how do you get to the subway? Learn how to build setting from “so there are three moons, you ride to work in giant worm and there’s an enchanted forest,” to totally convince your reader—and yourself—that wherever this place is, it always was.  

Week 3: Plot and Structure

Complicated is one thing. Bewilderingly nightmarishly confusingly dense is another. Even the most imaginatively uncategorizable story can find its beginning, middle, and end—it’s just a matter of cutting the fat, trimming the loose ends, and saving some of those red herrings for desert. Learn to know what’s working and what isn’t—how to bend genre to work for your story. 

Week 4: Revision and Style

It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world, and there have never been possibilities exactly like these for finding your own way, your own voice, your own style. Whether you’re following in the footsteps of Poe, or jumping into the ring with Link, learn about all the new markets out there like Apex and Black Static, the kind of material they’re looking for, and why now is the time for you to take that stylistic leap into the void, where everyone can hear you scream. 

ASSIGNMENTS: Each week will include a lecture and optional writing exercises, plus homework assignments for workshopping by peers and instructor toward the completion of a self-contained piece of writing. Along the way you’ll have the chance to ask questions, engage in discussions with your classmates and instructor about the material, about craft in general, and about how to market your work.  

Goals Of This Class

  • Be confident in the possibilities of your uncatagorizable fiction
  • Learn how to put meat on the bones of cool ideas
  • Learn to tell the difference between a mash-up and a mess
  • Learn to trust your heart to find the soul of your story
  • Learn to trust conflict and collision
  • Complete/revise a self-contained story or chapter for possible submission to a market or anthology
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