Writing the Short Story

with Rosemary Tantra Bensko

beyond convention how to write wild fiction

July 27, 2022
10 Weeks


Stimulate your imagination by creating new work that startles with fresh language, avoids clichés, moves readers with a potent universal theme, entertains with mystery sustained until the proper moment, presenting memorable characters to care about. With an eye toward publication, improve your stories through feedback from other students and your Instructor, including careful line edits to prepare your manuscripts so you feel confident sharing them with the world, if you so chose.

Want to gain more understanding of what drives a plot in conventional fiction, both Genre and Literary, and what ways you can stray from tradition to fit your unique vision and still make it accessible and entertaining? Want to grasp the ins and outs of Point of View and what works when and what surely does not? Would you like to write believable dialogue that’s not an info dump but resembles real life? How about a hook that draws in readers so they can’t look away, correct grammar, and an ending that impacts people strongly in ways they can’t forget?

If so, join us.

Rosemary’s enthusiasm was contagious. Her resources will offer me months, if not years, of further study.
—Marcus Hilgers

Course Outline

Participants will complete a story which is critiqued, and be empowered to:

  • Approach a blank piece of paper confident they can put down something spontaneously
  • Determine why you like some fiction
  • Be able to follow up your interests from a variety of options of types of fiction
  • Break through patterns of error after reading our line edits
  • Understand the classic plot structure, hook, MacGuffin, relationship of the active protagonist and thwarting antagonist as they encounter each other with rising tension levels, creating Plot Reversal, leading to climax and resolution, as well as employ fresh, surprising language and avoid cliché, which showing rather than telling in a narrative format of action moment by moment

Each week involves multiple readings within lectures, feedback from Instructor and fellow students on assignments, questions and discussions. This is a simplified version of the syllabus you will receive in class.

Week One

Lecture: Visage
Narrative VS expository, the relationship of Genre and Literary, clarity of writing, relationship between you and the narrator, description of characters

Assignment: After posting a photo of yourself and your background, describe your face in context, in narrative format, with some change happening. Then, write about someone else’s face. If you prefer to do an innovative take on these, you can, but it must not be expository, so no “he used to do this, and she often did that.”

Week Two

Lecture: Developing Empathy for Your Readers
Spontaneous writing similar to hypnagogia, revising for the sake of others through empathy, realism, conflict, transformation, beginning and ending, show don’t tell, avoiding a slow start, surprising language rather than clichés, writing from the body to affect a physical change in the reader, voice, muscular prose

Assignment: Write spontaneously. Revise that one, keeping the reader in mind according to the topics discussed in the lecture and reading.

Week Three

Lecture: Techniques to Achieve Your Desired Effects
POV, reliable and unreliable narrators, privileged to go into more than one person’s inner thoughts, more on voice, tense, flashbacks, foreshadowing, timing, pacing, taking the reader someplace, adrenalin response, misdirection, avoiding preaching, theme and message

Assignment: Write a piece of prose with characters engaging in an environment with action, briefly, from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd point of view, as well as with a reliable and unreliable narrator.

Week Four

Lecture: Making an Impact Word by Word
Creating an effect with words, word-driven fiction, sounds of consonants, numbers of syllables, accents, rhythm, not too many adjectives, subplot, subtext

Assignment: Write at least a paragraph, and up to a page, in which you pay attention to the rhythm, pacing, sounds of the letters, accent on syllables, length of words, length of sentences.

Week Five

Lecture: People Engaging in Conflict in an Environment
Realistic dialogue, well rounded characters we care about, alternatives, not too many characters, protagonist and antagonist, gestures, setting, timing of introducing characters, hook, motif, active characters, going beyond formula, beginning/middle/end

Assignment: Write a little dialogue by some characters established in a setting. Fill it in with more than simple dialogue, including description and action. Begin gathering ideas, moods, goals, characters, etc. for your major story.

Week Six

Lecture: Multi-level Action
Plot, layers of symbols, undercutting, active verbs, structure, symbolism, motifs, echoing, transformation, plot arc, affect, plot reversals, Hero’s Journey

Assignment: Write at least one sentence question or comment about the readings on plot reversals and Hero’s Journey. Continue working on your stories.

Week Seven

Lecture: Targeting Your Audience
Tailoring to magazines, overcoming writer’s block, explorations, outlines, plot approaches

Assignment: Explore literary magazines, and other methods and share some experience. Turn in plot outlines.

Week Eight

Lecture: Completion
The ending, transition to next chapter, revision and proofing

Assignment: Post complete story by the end of the week, making sure the ending is strong.

Week Nine

Lecture: Possibilities
Slipstream, Magical Realism, Historical, etc.

Assignment: Do one of 3 options. If you want, revise and post the new version of your story. Another option is to re-imagine the story as a different type of fiction. The other option is to write a completely different story, a flash fiction piece, which is 1000 words or shorter, stretching yourself into one of these types of fiction that maybe you wouldn’t have written otherwise.

Week Ten

Lecture: Moving Onward
Persona of the writer, interacting with material and the public, Duotrope, yahoo list for opportunities, magazines that nominate for prizes, Goodreads, Linked in, Facebook, Authonomy, Zoetrope, writing reviews, agents, contests, exclusivity, chapbooks, interviews, queries, e-books, the novel, novellette, novella, short story collections, getting reviews, open mics, anthologies, magazines, submitting, bios, web pages, blogs, persona.

Assignment: Comment on the revisions or new stories and share anything else you want with everyone as we finish up. Write a line bio of no more than 6 lines on the page. Tell us what your publication strategy is if that is something that interests you.

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Student Feedback for Rosemary Tantra Bensko:

Rosemary is the real thing. She is experienced and knowledgable, tough and fair, thorough and completely supportive. It's clear that she understood what I was trying to do; she supported that. Anne Hodges White

I love Rosemary.  Her feedback was generous and helpful. I thought the lectures were the best so far on Writers.com. There are a few classes I'm looking forward to taking.  I really like working with Rosemary, she's wonderful. Laura Secor

I am thrilled that not only did I get started writing poems, but with the inspiration and guidance provided in Poetry Workshop, have actually written a few that feel meaningful to me. I even have had one accepted for publication! Melissa Haylock

Rosemary was amazing, and her lessons so thoughtful and thought provoking. After 34 years since the last time I tried to write poetry I was quite nervous, but she helped me start to find my voice again and I remembered how deeply I had loved poetry. Barbara White

I loved Poetry Workshop. Rosemary was both pointed and supportive in her critique, and I really feel I developed as a writer. She pulled fantastic poetry for our weekly readings, and her lessons were always clear and constructive. Tamara Kreutz

Rosemary Bensko is an excellent teacher. Her course instruction and selection of poems are to the point. She's also very sharp in commenting on our writings and guiding us to improve our pieces. Her recorded analysis of a poem for each unit is my favorite. It's full of insight and her voice is so pleasant. Hongying Liu

Rosemary Bensko's instructional materials and attention to student work is professional and engaged beyond the expectations for an online course. Her attention to our work is so prompt and engaged—she takes the construction of a good poem seriously and that's exactly what you want in a poetry instructor. She attends to language, the presentation of feeling, the development of idea and story in a poem. I'm currently taking my 3rd class with her. Nina Goss

Rosemary's feedback was prompt, copious and direct. She was very honest with her comments without being harsh or negative. Her enthusiasm was contagious and she continuously pushed me to grow and get better. I was also blown away by the breadth and depth of the lectures and associated learning material. Rosemary's resources will offer me months if not years of further study. Marcus Hilgers

This course was challenging and fun. Rosemary's critiques were very helpful and I am a better poet thanks to her constructive and encouraging comments. It forced me to write each week and that was good for my body and soul. Gwen Morden

Rosemary was excellent. She had a way with words! I admired her ability to herd a rag-tag band of wannabe writers a little further down the writing road. George Simard

Rosemary is an excellent teacher, encouraging yet critical at the same time. She helped my hone my writing skills and improve the structure of my work. Judy Hampson

I was thrilled with my first course with Writers.com and with my instructor, Rosemary Bensko. This was a way for me to begin writing regularly with support and feedback and I learned so much more than I had anticipated. Rosemary is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and gives generous, positive feedback that is also direct and useful. I wanted to grow my skills and I felt like I did. I was so happy that I started another course the very next week! Julie Gibbs

Rosemary is brilliant, engaged, gives both inline and general feedback and even includes audio feedback for tackling certain problems in your writing. I learned where my writing belongs and in what genre I was able to write. Rosemary is an inspiring teacher; I’ll be delighted to take another of her classes. Sophie Cayeux

Rosemary taught me so much about using muscular language and avoiding expository narratives. The lectures were amazing. I read them all the time. Benjamin Magie

Rosemary was wonderful. Always encouraging, very kind in feedback but always pushing you on to make the draft better. It’s hard to achieve that balance.  I really liked the way she recorded the feedback so that it felt more personal. I liked the  Haiku Learning website she used too. There was plenty of choice of assignment and they were interesting and challenging. Everything was useful in moving us to the goal of getting our story/stories finished. I thought the notes given were especially interesting and generous and although I am a compulsory buyer of books on writing, there was much that was new or better explained (loved the information on different types of short story - some of which I hadn’t come across; and the discussion of different ways of developing the plot was very useful to me.) I ended up with what I wanted from the course - a goodish draft of a story. I see so many more classes I’d like to do!  Sharon Bakar

Rosemary's editing was amazing! I learned a lot about removing narration and getting to the action. Norma Kaufman

I loved this class. And Rosemary. I feel that I have made a transition (finally) with her and might actually have the confidence to really begin to write seriously . She is honest, constructive and has really help build my confidence. I am away at the moment but will be in touch re private classes with her. I will be interested in any class she is doing! Jeanette del Olmo

Rosemary presented her critiques in a positive light but made relevant and helpful comments. I often took a step away after reading her response to my work and then came back to revise. Each time, I felt that the changes I made improved the quality of the piece. I emailed Rosemary several times with questions, and she was quick to respond. I would not hesitate to take another class from her. I felt the lectures were stimulating and the assignments were challenging. Both forced me to engage and push myself to another level. I have recommended your site to others and hope to continue taking classes from Writers.com. Janis Brams

Have you always wanted to write the perfect story? Explore your inner visions and commit them to paper? Be prepared, Rosemary Bensko will set you on fire...as a teacher she has the unique gift to be able to identify within you your innate spark of creativity and ignite the ether of your imagination, to reveal to you the magic of your words. She is that good. As a writer I can testify to the value of working with Rosemary. Growing up I have always enjoyed words. I love to spin them around, phrasing moments in time, to make them clear and born anew. And when I took her class, Rosemary got that right away and encouraged me to play with the tools of language, providing me resources to help stretch my imagination. With her tutorship, I was able to refine my writing skills while retaining the desire to honor that which flows from the heart. That is a very good thing. I wholeheartedly recommend you take this class and allow Rosemary to help you to bring your writing up to the next level... Paul Barnett

This was challenging and substantive. Rosemary's readings of our posted work were invariably prompt, detailed, and constructive. As usual, the participants were serious, generous, and ambitious writers and readers. Rosemary is engaged and professional. I admire her as a fellow teacher and am grateful to be her student. Nina Goss

Thanks for the class. I downloaded all the lectures. I feel like MicroObstacles and Flow is a great technique. It is taking me time and thought to process... I want to really be able to apply this to my own fiction/works, so I will probably take the class again once I get more of a handle on the technique... I have taken several classes from Rosemary. I have tried to put all of her feedback into practice. My writing (and reading and viewing) craft have improved with every class. One of my pieces that I workshopped in Rosemary's classes has been published. I just feel so grateful for her mentorship and turning me on to Writers.com!... Chris Perkins

July 27, 2022
10 Weeks


Rosemary Tantra Bensko


Rosemary Bensko—writing as Tantra Bensko—has hundreds of flashes, short stories, novelettes, and a novella in journals such as Mad Hatters Review, The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Fiction International, The Fabulist and anthologies such as Women Writing the Weird I and II, Surreal South, Holdfast, Up, Do, Not Somewhere Else But Here, Looking Back, Writing Disorder 2, Redacted Stories, Quantum Genre on the Planet of the Arts, Cellar Door 111, No Site for the Saved, Cadavre Exquis, Ironic Fantastic 3, and Triangulation: Parch. She also has a over a hundred poems in journals and anthologies, such as Chatahoochie Review, Carolina Quarterly, Florida Review, Hawaii Review, and North of Wakulla.

She has several chapbooks, such as The Cabinet of What You Don’t See (ISMs Press) and short story collections, such as Lucid Membrane (Night Publishing). She has published other people’s work as well through a magazine and LucidPlay Publishing.

She has won awards for both her poetry and fiction, including Carolina Quarterly — the Academy of American Poets Award, Punkpen, The Iowa Journal of Literary Studies award, and the Oblongata Award from Medulla Review and two awards from Cezanne’s Carrot, and many more.

Her four psychological suspense novels have garnered many industry awards, all in large categories. The first, Glossolalia: Psychological Suspense, won the gold medal from Readers Favorite in Intrigue and also the gold award from Literary Titan. Floating on Secrets won a Silver medal from eLit for Romance for all major or small press. And Encore: A Contemporary Love Story of Hypnotic Abduction won the Bronze medal from eLit for Mystery/Thrillers/Suspense, and was listed as one of the dozen best thrillers of the year by BestThrillers, beating competitors Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz.

Rosemary earned her MA from FSU and MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, teaching both places and at Memphis State. She has taught for years through UCLA X Writing Program and her own academy online, and maintains a resource site about experimental writing. She lives in Berkeley.