Chimeras with Gemma Files

Every genre has tropes, but they're especially abundant in horror. This workshop with critically-acclaimed and award-winning author Gemma Files breaking those tropes to create something new.

Your Instructor: Award-winning horror author Gemma Files

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: June 27, 2017 - July 20, 2017

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $250

Class Description

Though every genre has its tropes, it's hard to think of one in which the trope fatigue threshold is set lower than in horror. Shock can very easily slide into amusement, in much the same way that surprise can all too easily become bafflement or boredom.

Every horror story begins with a willing suspension of disbelief: we agree to disagree on whether the dead come back to life, whether a mirror can be haunted (and if that idea can be scary), whether a person can prolong their life indefinitely by drinking blood, etc. From then on, investment made, we trust the creator to persuade us with a combination of delivery system, theme and character-work.

So when we say “I'm bored with [x trope],” what we most often mean is that we're bored with the narrative, setting and character dynamics [x trope] usually brings along with it. Change any one of these and the story changes, [x trope] becomes fresh again.

This class, led by critically-acclaimed and award-winning author Gemma Files, is aimed at keeping things fresh. At deconstructing those tropes so you can build new archetypes. The goal of the class, besides learning a new set of skills, is to walk out with a short story that's about ready to submit. 

What This Class Covers

Week One: New Tropes From Old

In the initial lecture, Gemma will talk about audience expectations and how/when to meet or subvert them in order to keep your readers both engaged and excited. In particular, she'll talk about the importance of creating and maintaining emotional reality, as well as maintaining an open mind not only about the most effective ways to tell your story, but also about who you might be prospectively telling that story to.

Assignment: Choose three to five tropes you find stale and talk about why, then combine and/or spin two or more of them to create something you might actually want to write about. 

Week Two: Frankensteining the Result

As you move into the second week, you’ll receive feedback analyzing your ideas as to which might be the most viable, leaving it up to you to choose the one you think has the best potential. You will also have a brief discussion of potential markets, industry standards and practices, word-count and manuscript format, etc.

Assignment: You will then extend one of these ideas into a piece of prose. It doesn't have to be a complete story, just a three to five-page sketch or section in which you try out potential combinations of plot, characterization, delivery systems and effects. Again, these will be submitted for feedback.

Week Three: It's Alive (Hopefully)!

In the third week, you'll work on bringing your first draft to a natural conclusion, as well as examining ways to turn it into a submittable manuscript.

Assignment: To increase the page-length of your original sketch or section by at least half, ending up with a manuscript of six to ten pages or more, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Remember, even a beginning and an end is better than nothing, since re-writing is better than starting from scratch. At this stage, you will receive as much practical feedback as you need in order to nurture your idea to its conclusion.

Goals Of This Class

  • Re-invigorate tired old tropes
  • Create exciting new monsters
  • Make readers identify with your central characters
  • Discover interesting narrative delivery systems
  • Write marketable horror
  • Produce at least a first draft of something potentially saleable

Additional Info

Gemma Files in conversation with horror writer, Michael Rowe, on "Queering the Genre."

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