How to Write Great Stories

with Amy Bonnaffons

Fiction Fundamentals: How to Write Great Stories

July 20, 2021
6 Weeks


Whether you are a beginning fiction writer seeking to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of craft, or an experienced writer seeking to refresh your understanding of how fiction works at the level of blood and bone, this course is for you.

Each week will focus on a different element of craft, including setting, character, theme, dialogue and structure. Far from being prescriptive or formulaic, our approach will both acknowledge and challenge received wisdom; we’ll look at “classic” short stories as well as those that take risks and push boundaries.

Each week will include readings and a generative exercise focused on a particular element of craft; each week, two students will also share a finished short story with the class and received thoughtful, process-oriented feedback designed to help them connect with the essence of their story and become aware of the full range of tools available for telling it.

Learning and Writing Goals

In this course, you will learn:

  • Essential craft elements such as character, plot, setting, and structure.
  • How to identify, articulate and analyze these elements in the work of published writers and of your peers.
  • How to incorporate these elements skillfully into your own stories.
  • How to be a better editor of your own work and others’.

You will write:

  • Two complete short stories (or one complete short story with one substantial revision), with instructor and peer feedback.
  • New writing through weekly exercises.

Zoom Schedule

This course meets every Wednesday on Zoom, from 7-9:30 P.M. U.S. Eastern Time.

Course Syllabus

Week One: Character

Who is the story about? What do they want? How is their perspective crafted on the page and how does point of view affect the unfolding of the narrative?

Week Two: Setting

Where does the story take place? Why does setting matter? How can setting be a character in and of itself?

Week Three: Dialogue and Showing v. Telling

How do real people talk, and how do literary characters talk? What are the functions of scene and dialogue vs. summary and exposition? When is each appropriate for the story?

Week Four: Plot & Structure

What is plot? How much has to “‘happen”’ in my story, and how do I know? How do I write a good ending?

Week Five: Themes and Questions

What am I really trying to explore in the story? What is the deep structure beneath the surface mechanics?

Week Six: Putting It All Together

Why do discussions of “craft” matter? What are their limits? How do I use what I’ve learned in my work going forward?

Why Take a Fiction Writing Course with

  • We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
  • Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
  • Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
  • Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
  • Award-winning instructor Amy Bonnaffons will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.
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July 20, 2021
6 Weeks


amy bonnaffons headshot


Amy Bonnaffons is the author of the story collection The Wrong Heaven  (2018) and the novel The Regrets (2020), both published by Little, Brown. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Kenyon Review, The Sun, and elsewhere, and has been read on NPR's This American Life. She holds a BA in Literature from Yale, an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU, and a PhD in English and Women's Studies from the University of Georgia. Amy is a founding editor of, a literary journal devoted to collaborations between writers and visual artists. She has taught writing at New York University, the University of Georgia, and in many other settings, including senior centers, hospitals, and prisons. For several years, she has also led unique creative writing workshops that incorporate spiritual techniques such as shamanic dreamwork and energy work.  Her own spiritual journey has included elements from many traditions, from Buddhist meditation to core shamanism and ancestor work.  She is certified as a clairvoyant reader and healer by the Inner Connection Institute in Denver, CO. Born in New York City, she now lives in Athens, GA.