When you read a work of fiction, you are communicating with a person (the author) you’ve probably never met. If you wonder about the person who created the story you read, the only clues you have are in the story itself. How reliable are these clues? And what assumptions does the author make about you, the reader?

In “Tools of Fiction,” we will try to answer these questions by reading short stories and examining the rhetorical techniques authors use. We will analyze works of short fiction and examine storytelling conventions that many have in common. We’ll also look at works that deliberately set out to break various “rules” of literary fiction, whether conventional expectations readers generally have or rules that a story establishes internally (such as by creating a pattern, and then breaking it).

Assignments include:

• Each student will be required to create and revise a short story, which will be shared with and discussed by the class. Other writing assignments in the course will be several short essays based on published short stories mainly from contemporary American authors, and an essay final exam.