By Julia Joy ’20
New Haven, Connecticut
English (prospective major)

“The workshops are low key, but this class makes you think.”

Marlon James, the professor of my first-year course, Introduction to Creative Writing, is also my advisor. During our first office hours, I mentioned the statistic—you know, the one “they” said—that 10 percent of artists make enough money from their art to feed themselves.

Marlon replied, “Then be that 10 percent.”

You may know Marlon James’s bestselling novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2015. This doesn’t mean that Marlon will make you as internationally celebrated as he’s been, but he can reference his own publications as examples of what works. It’s interesting to hear about how his books have been influenced by editors, mistakes he’s made, and what he’s done to fix them, as they relate to our own writing.  

Introduction to Creative Writing meets twice a week, and each day focuses on a topic like plot, dialogue, or point of view. Marlon’s lectures are structured around excerpts from literature, film, and past student exercises, easing into exercises of our own. The prompts move us through the process: take the next 15 minutes to write a scene in which one character wants something from another, the latter being reluctant. Take the next five minutes to rewrite it with the characters being evenly matched. Or, take the next 10 minutes to write a dialogue with gestures. Create a conflict. Raise the stakes. Is the narrator reliable? Does the distance to the subject change? Is the point of view dynamic? Does anyone want some Nerds? You’ve never tried Nerds?

The skills Marlon teaches are the basic elements of creative writing. You may be asked to read your work, after which Marlon will respond with a barrage of questions. In this way, you learn to be aware of every detail, so that whatever you write is fully thought out. The workshops are low key, but this class makes you think.  

November 30 2016

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