March 28, 2018
8 Weeks | $315
If you turn on to the absurd in life, to the ironic and edgy, the bizarre, the grotesque, if you appreciate authors like Kafka, this is the course for you. We’ll begin with a primer on the fundamental elements of fiction, and then move on quickly to the key techniques of writing dark, or black, humor, as it’s also called. We’ll read some of the great works of dark humor, including Voltaire’s Candide, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. (The three novels are available online for free.) You’ll engage in discussion boards on these great works of literature, concentrating on the function of dark humor in these works. Throughout the course, you’ll write your own dark humor pieces and receive plenty of feedback from both your fellow writers and instructor.
Open to beginning as well as advanced writers.
Introduction to course. Cover key techniques of dark humor fiction: irony (including dramatic, situational, and verbal), paradox, juxtaposition, hyperbole, understatement/overstatement, reductio ad absurdum. Brief commentary on some dark humor works of literature, including three which we’ll read in the course: Voltaire’s Candide, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. This first week, read a selection of Huck Finn focusing on Twain’s use of dark humor and share comments on Discussions. Write a short piece of dark humor using dramatic irony and receive feedback from fellow writers and instructor.
Read first half of Voltaire’s Candide, and in Discussions comment on dark humor elements. Drawing upon Candide as a model, begin your own piece of satire on a given world view (aided with lecture notes on this) and receive feedback from fellow writers and instructor.
Finish reading Voltaire’s Candide, and in Discussions, comment on as many dark humor elements as possible. Finish your own piece of dark satire and receive feedback from fellow writers and instructor.
Read first half of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and share comments on Discussions. Based on Kafka’s novel, write your first draft of a short piece of absurdist fiction dealing with the fundamental nature of human existence (aided with lecture notes on this), using dark humor elements, and receive feedback from fellow writers and instructor.
Read second half of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and share comments on Discussions. Complete short piece of absurdist fiction, with dark humor elements, and receive feedback from fellow writers and instructor.
Read first third of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and share comments on Discussions. Write a short piece of dark humor/satire dealing with a current societal, cultural, political, or ethical/moral issue (aided with lecture notes on this). Receive feedback from fellow students and instructor.
Read second third of Slaughterhouse Five and share comments on Discussions. Develop further the short piece of dark humor/satire from previous week. Receive feedback from fellow students and instructor.
Finish reading Slaughterhouse Five and share comments on Discussions. Complete short piece of dark humor/satire from previous two weeks. Receive feedback from fellow students and instructor.
Jack was very encouraging and provided me with helpful feedback. His comments are friendly but also critical, which is important with writing, as too many compliments and not enough critical opinions aren't helpful. The class content was engaging. I've already recommended the class to a friend and will continue to do so. And I'm taking another class at the moment. I've been very happy with my experience. Shay Meinecke
I found the earlier exercises extremely helpful and came away feeling encouraged about my novel idea and excited to continue working on it. [Jack Smith] was accessible and encouraging and gave excellent feedback. I would take another of his classes, perhaps when I am farther along with my project and looking for structure and feedback. I just want to say again how much I appreciated the teacher's attentive and individualized feedback and encouragement. This was my first fiction-writing experience, and it felt like a risk. I was in good hands with Jack. Elizabeth Hawkins
Jack is a fantastic teacher. He is infinitely patient, doesn't take anything personally, and he is supportive without relinquishing his desire to provide us with detailed, specific, constructive criticism. I of course worked with him longer later and was very impressed with his ability to refrain from taking offense when I did not use one of his suggestions, but simply anticipate why I might be hesitant to do so and offer a solution that could satisfy the need I had which prevented me from making changes to the text to begin with. In other words, he is humble, smart, and flexible; even wise, and that is not a word I use lightly.
He seems to find the balance between allowing students their own style and self-expression while correcting everything that needs to be corrected. Finally, I really appreciated in Jack his sense of humor, which is subtle and compassionate. His way of constructing a class and giving feedback allows students to feel encouraged and supported even when he is busy with correcting our text and way of working so we may become better writers. He just kept on making suggestions patiently on where and how I could use an image to help my scene, so that without even noticing, I acquired a good habit and will never again NOT think of using more visuals with descriptions. Same goes for using action instead of telling, or avoiding clichés. I hope you will use Jack for more classes in the future, he is truly a gifted teacher.
Thank you for creating and leading the best online writing website I have tried (and I have tried several). Marcella Agh
I enjoyed [the novella class]. I also really enjoyed the suggested reading. I realized the first week I wasn’t quite prepared. Jack’s suggestion to beef up my outline was the best advice I could have received. It wasn’t easy writing those 3000 words a week, but at least I didn’t have to think “what” I needed to write about. With the outline, it came fairly easy.
As for Jack ... I thought he was personable, but with just the right amount of “removed” to make a good reviewer. In my case, he pointed out things I didn’t even think about and he was very supportive. He focused mostly on concept, and in a first draft, I believe this is critical. I have recommended you to other people. I am glad you are there for me. Anne Jennings
I found the lessons and the assignments to be inspiring and challenging.Jack gave helpful and encouraging feedback. He is a well read and accomplished writer, so his critique and input was astute. I think your offerings are fantastic. There is something for everyone, IMO. As a beginning writer, it's also nice that the classes all seem to be geared towards all levels. I can already see that you get what you put in with the classes, and that's ideal. I would definitely recommend your classes. I immediately enrolled in another class, so yes, I will probably keep taking classes with your site! Debra Barclay
[Jack] consistently provided detailed, thoughtful and helpful feedback. I’ve taken many courses with Writers.com so my repeated presence says more than any words I can add. Shawn Montgomery