English 3420: Intermediate Fiction Writing

Revising Flash Fiction

TR 10:00-11:15 LA 027

Stephen D. Gibson

CB 407 F (1:00-2:00 & by appointment), 863-6287, stephen(dot)gibson(at)uvu(dot)edu


Texts and Materials:

Oats, Joyce Carol. Telling Stories. W.W. Norton, 1998. ISBN 0393971767.

Access to Canvas andMetaphorByMetaphor.com


Course Description:

Implements a variety of intermediate techniques for generating, writing, and revising stories for publication and public readings, along with readings in theory and fiction. Lab access fee of $7 for computers applies.


Course Objectives:

By the end of the semester, you will have

  • practiced and produced two examples of meaningful global revision (not proofreading)
  • gained experience with both revision as re-seeing and revision as a form of composition

You should be able to

  • analyze, apply, and evaluate a variety of artistically non-clichéd and innovative styles
  • invent lively literary characters with dialogue, description, exposition, and narration, and fully flesh them with workshop and revision
  • construct traditional and non-traditional narrative structures, and revise pacing and consistency with workshop and revision
  • create and manipulate a variety of points-of-view and revise them for consistency and depth with workshop and revision
  • demonstrate a range of styles and voices


Reaching the Objectives:

In order to successfully reach these goals/objectives, you must take responsibility for your own learning and participate actively. One of the best ways to learn what writers do is to try doing what writers do. This course gives you the opportunity to draft and revise a short story, to join a community of writers engaged in the same task, and to receive feedback from a range of readers.


You’ll have the chance to write in class almost every time we meet. In-class writing provides an opportunity to record ideas, reflect on your writing, try out some of the techniques we’ll discuss, demonstrate your understanding of the readings, and actually rough draft parts of your fiction. Usually, but not always, I’ll collect and grade in-class writing. Evaluations of in-class writing include zero points (if it’s not completed), three points (completed poorly), and five (completed well). By the end of the semester, in-class writing will total approximately one hundred points. Since in-class writing will often grow out of in-class events, it can’t be made up. It will be collected in the classroom as we meet. The in-class writing you’ve completed also documents your attendance, punctuality, participation, and student conferences.


One of the most important things writers do is actually revise texts they draft. You’ll have the chance to do this by completing two portfolios. Each portfolio will include three drafts; one will be a rough draft, the second will be a revision as re-seeing draft, and the third will be a revision as composition draft. We will talk more about each of these assignments in greater detail during class, but here is some basic information:

  • Each rough draft will have a five double-spaced page length. It will need to be both tentative and complete. In other words, it should have a tentative beginning, middle, and ending. You should not love the story so much that you are unwilling to revise it.
  • The revision as re-seeing drafts will include obvious experiments with the rough draft. As a result of your decisions, new material will be written in and old material cut. Summaries may be expanded into scenes and scenes may be reordered, summarized, cut, or rewritten. Characterization improves, clichés of plot and language disappear or are revised away, themes and settings come into focus.
  • Each revision-as-composition draft is a chance to think explicitly of your words as no longer a story, but as an ingredient in a completely new five-page story. While there will be connections between the first short story and the third, they will be utterly minimal. At least one but no more than two of these five core elements of fiction (character, action/plot, setting, point of view, style) will connect the drafts.

These three drafts will each be attached to an email submitting each portfolio for evaluation. It’s possible to earn as much as one hundred points from each portfolio.


You’ll have the chance to workshop and be workshopped in class about each week. I’ll provide prompts to help shape your responses to each other’s work, but you should also provide individual feedback. You’ll send a copy of your feedback to both the author and to me. Evaluations of workshopping feedback include zero points (if it’s not completed), three points (completed poorly), and five (completed well). By the end of the semester, workshopping feedback will total as many as 50 points. Since workshopping is an event that takes place in the classroom when you exchange one of your drafts with another student, it can’t be made up.


The last way you’ll show how well you understand the techniques the course identifies will be the final exam. Your work on it can earn you as many as fifteen points. It is due by email to stephen(dot)gibson(at)uvu(dot)edu at the end of our final exam period.


Approximately three hundred and fifteen points are possible in the class. Earning more than 93% of the total points possible in the class will result in an “A” grade, 90%-92.9% an A-, 86%-89.9% a “B+,” and so on. As the UVU Catalog indicates, “The letter grade ‘A’ is an honor grade indicating superior achievement; ‘B’ is a grade indicating commendable mastery; ‘C’ indicates satisfactory mastery and is considered an average grade; ‘D’ indicates substandard progress and insufficient evidence of ability to succeed in sequential courses; ‘E’ (failing) indicates inadequate mastery of pertinent skills or repeated absences from class.”


If you prefer to use a name other than the name the University officially uses, please let me know. Likewise, if you have a preferred personal pronoun, please let me know.


In order to protect their privacy, students must come to see me privately in my office if they wish to discuss a grade on an assignment or for the course. It is your responsibility to periodically check your grade on Canvas. The grade book function is the only part of Canvas I use.


Late Work Policy:

If for some good reason you won’t be able to turn something in when it is due, try to contact me (preferably in advance). You’ll be able to develop the habit of meeting deadlines by turning assignments in during class on their due dates. In order to discourage procrastination, I’ll take ten points away from the total points earned each day (not class period) an assignment is late. For example, an assignment due on Friday but not turned in until Monday would have thirty points deducted from the total points it earns. An assignment is turned in on the day when I personally receive it, when I feel I have a copy, not when it is left in my box, office, or in the English department. I don’t plan on grading papers faxed to me, and I encourage you to always make and keep a copy of all the work you turn in. You can, of course, turn things in early.


Peer Review:

“The purpose of a writing workshop is to give and receive constructive feedback . . . This is not a time to show off your polished work; it is a time to test out material you’re working on, a time to receive suggestions on how it might be improved, a time to ask a receptive audience specific questions about your work. The spirit of these workshops must be cordial and helpful. As the writer, you are not there to defend or explain your work; you merely need to find out, from others’ viewpoints, what works and what doesn’t. As a reader, you are there to help a fellow writer improve a specific piece of writing.” –Chris Crowe


Classroom Behavior and Grievance Criteria:

The “Student Rights and Responsibilities Code,” section VI A-X is the guide for your classroom behavior, and section XVI C is the guide for registering a formal grievance or requesting a grade change. The “Student Rights and Responsibilities Code” is available online at http:www.uvu.edu.


Students with Disabilities:

If you have any disability that may impair your ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the Accessibility Services Department (LC 312; 863-8747; http://www.uvu.edu/asd/). Academic accommodations are granted for all students who have qualified disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the Accessibility Services Department.


Academic Honesty:

“Plagiarism, or the use of others’ words or ideas without proper attribution, is an impediment to your education and to the educational mission of Utah Valley University. Under the policy of the English and Literature Department of UVU, work that has been plagiarized must receive a failing grade. A distinction is made between unintentionally plagiarized work, which must be corrected in order to be considered for a passing grade, and intentional plagiarism, which will be forwarded to the Office of the Dean of Student Life as a disciplinary matter in accordance with UVU’s statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities. Evidence of intentional plagiarism will cause you to fail this course.”

–Utah Valley University English and Literature Department Homepage


Waitlist and Add Policy:

It is against the policy of Utah Valley University for students who are not registered and enrolled in a class to attend it. Students who are on a class waitlist, even if they are the first on the list, are not enrolled. There is absolutely no guarantee any student on the waitlist will ever be enrolled. Students on a waitlist must wait for and respond appropriately to email notifications that allow registration and enrollment in the course. All adds and enrollments into a course from a waitlist take place through the online system. Instructors cannot add students. Department administrative staff and academic advisors cannot add students.


Tentative Schedule:

Complete the reading assignments listed below before coming to class on the specified dates. It is certainly possible to be offended by some of the language or images in some of the materials assigned in this class. I encourage you to read each work in its entirety before evaluating it. Please make evaluations for yourself, rather than for your peers or for me. If you are ever offended and feel so inclined, please speak (or write) to me about it. I’m happy to discuss the issue during office hours.



Aug 21 Introduction to the class and each other, beginning the rough draft

Aug 23 ”The Use of Force,” “Father’s Last Escape”


Aug 28 “I Used to Live Here Once,” “The House of the Crime”

Aug 30 “The Supper,” “Cities & The Dead,” “Continuous Cities,” Workshop


Sep 4 “The Sisters” (1904)

Sep 6 “The Sisters” (1914), Workshop


Sep 11 “The Story of Daedalus and Icarus,” “Fever”

Sep 13 “Indian Camp,” Workshop


Sep 18 “Wunderkind”

Sep 20 “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” Workshop


Sep 25 Student conferences

Sep 27 Student conferences


Oct 2 “The Naked Lady,” “Anxiety”

Oct 4 “I Dated Jane Austen,” Workshop


Oct 9 First fiction portfolio due

Oct 11 “Is There Nowhere Else We Can Meet?” “Cockroaches in Autumn,” “Coffee,” Workshop


Oct 16 “The Last Days of a Famous Mime,” “No One’s a Mystery”

Oct 18 Holiday


Oct 23 “Death of the Right Fielder,” “La Cortada”

Oct 25 “Why Don’t You Dance,” Workshop


Oct 30 “Jasmine”

Nov 1 “Damballah,” Workshop


Nov 6 ”X and O,” “The Moths”

Nov 8 “In the American Society,” Workshop


Nov 13 “The Pugilist at Rest”

Nov 15 “Little Red-Cap,” “The Werewolf,” Workshop


Nov 19 Holiday

Nov 21 Holiday


Nov 27 Student conferences

Nov 29 Student conferences


Dec 4 Second fiction portfolio due

Dec 6 Final exam preparation


Final:Dec 11, 9:00-10:50




Questions I’ll ask as I evaluate your work:

  1. Do the words of the drafts create at least one character, create the illusion of a person?
  2. Do scenes and summaries of the characters’ motivated actions create a dramatic plot? Do the plots take place in settings formed by images and figurative language?
  3. Do point of view, punctuation, structure, and voice add to the drafts?
  4. Are the drafts likely to engage readers’ attention for their entire lengths?
  5. When compared side-by-side, do differences between the drafts clearly show a willingness to revise dramatically and globally? Is the revised or rough draft clearly merely one ingredient in the composing draft?


Workshopping prompts:

  1. List two of the characterization techniques found in the draft. What additional technique might help create the illusion of at least one round or complex person?
  2. Which scene is the most important in the draft? Why? Which scene should be summarized? Why? Which summary should be expanded into a scene? Why? How is a sense of place created? (Images? Sensory language? Figurative language?)
  3. What point of view is the draft written in? Quote language from the draft to support your assertion. Describe the pacing of the story.
  4. Where were you most interested? Where did your mind wander?
  5. How do you think the next draft might be different? What from this draft should remain unchanged?
  6. What other suggestions do you have? Respond to any questions the writer has here.