Writing the Weird with JS Breukelaar

In this four-week workshop, you'll work with JS Breukelaar to create characters, structures, and settings that defy convention and push you into unfamiliar—and daring—territory.

Your Instructor: JS Breukelaar, author of 'Collision'

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16 students

Price: $399

Class Description

Weird fiction is the well from which genre fiction flows. 

Before horror and fantasy and sci-fi and all that genre marketing hoopla, there was the weird.

Before Tim & Eric, Bizarro, slipstream and The Mighty Boosh, there was Lovecraft, Poe, Le Fanu, and Homer.

Today, the weird blends elements of various genres into a new form—something that can’t quite be pinned down, but is attracting more attention than ever. Call it cutting-edge fiction with a fantastical bent. Weird tales don’t so much as take us to other worlds, as they show us something new and unique about our own. Something both unsettling and uncanny, chilling and wondrous, dreadful and bone-deep needful.

Cool idea, right? Harder to pull off, because cool ideas need real characters, emotionally-rich plotting, a chewy kind of setting, and nerves of steel.

Enter Writing the Weird, led by JS Breukelaar, the Shirley Jackson Award nominated author of Collision, American Monster, and Alethia.

In this four-week workshop, you'll work with JS to create characters, structures, and settings that defy convention and push you into unfamiliar—and daring—territory. Do you want to write fiction that's more involved than "dissatisfied family lives in the suburbs and is sad?" JS will show you the tricks of the trade.

Her trade being weird, fantastical, unique literature. 

All skill levels are welcome!

What This Class Covers

Week One - Humanity

Whether subtly surreal, literarily fantastic, or totally bizarre, learn to find those human moments in your story and amplify them. Discover who or what needs to tell (or howl or dream) this story, and why. Learn—using techniques of dialogue, silence, action and stillness—how to make the reader care about your characters.  

Week Two - Structure

Learn to work within the constraints of narrative to keep your story accessible, but still smart. Your story should be logical in an emotional sense that goes beyond cause and effect, because emotion is what readers connect with. What do some of the most memorably weird stories have in common? Whether it’s Kelly Link or Jeff VanderMeer, Matt Bell, or Aimee Bender, Cameron Pierce or Stephen Graham Jones, these writers know how and when in their story to break into the weird. This week we look at how conventional narrative techniques can be a launch pad for incredible innovation.

Week Three - Setting

Fictional realism was built on the logic of weaving other worlds into our own, in order to affirm a harsh and inescapably reality. Weird fiction does this too, but in a way that affirms the inescapable strangeness of the real. And yes, it’s personal. Whether it’s a pocket universe or a yellow brick road, a sentient InSinkerator, or Guns of the Seneca, the surprise element has to feel deeply necessary. Looking at the language of animated media, horror, comedy, noir, folk-tales, ghost stories and more, learn how to work a setting from your (sub) conscious into the reader’s.

Week Four - Resolution, revision

When it comes to the weird, that old writers’ workshop maxim, less is more, needs to be fed into the sentient garbage disposal where it belongs. The weird is, by definition, over the top, under the stairs, around the bend and in your dreams, and the words ‘depraved, gratuitous, shlocky, hackish, silly’ just don’t apply. The only sin in weird fiction, from the subtle to the most bizarre, is ‘so what’. Learn to self-edit, to turn ’meh’ into  ‘magic.’ The reader has be able to do more than just smell the musk of your talking elk—they have to find its fur under their fingernails. Learn the way, because it was there the whole time, to resolve your story and mark the reader for life.


In the first three weeks, you'll get writing assignments to test out your new skills, to be critiqued by JS and your classmates. And in the fourth week, you'll develop a story using elements of the first three assignments!

Goals Of This Class

  • Learn to deepen your strangely familiar characters.
  • Learn how and when to break through your story structure into the weird.
  • Learn how to make unsettling settings stick to your reader’s consciousness.
  • Learn how to resolve your story in the most surprising yet necessary way, polish it, and have it critiqued by an acclaimed writer of the weird.
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