Writing Short Fiction with Catherine Smith

Join Catherine Smith for a six-week online short fiction writing course.


“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
― Neil Gaiman

The short story is a marvellously flexible, muscular and adventurous genre. It’s been around, in various forms, for thousands of years, and appeals to writers who love making ‘every word count.’ A short story may be as long as 10,000 words, or as short as 100. In this six-week course, we’ll explore how short stories ‘work’ and experiment with strategies for writing them. The set text for the course is The Penguin Contemporary Book of Short Stories, ed. Philip Hensher (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-141-98621-0

Other examples from published fiction will also be provided.

Book your place now

Course outline

Week One – Lighting the fuse – where might short stories come from? What themes, ideas and/or obsessions do you really want to explore in your stories? ‘Conventional wisdom on short story – do’s and don’ts.’ A guide to basic Aristotelian plot structure – the four element approach.

Week Two – Made Up People. Creating three dimensional fictional characters – swiftly – and exploring their motivations. How do we ‘get them onto the page’ – and show them changing? We’ll also look at dialogue; what do characters say, how do they say it…what aren’t they saying?

Week Three – Who’s telling this story? The author? An anonymous narrator? A character from within the story? We’ll explore the freedoms and limitations of different narrative perspectives (points of view) and experiment with writing a scene from different viewpoints.

Week Four – Where to start? At the beginning, or later? How to continue/develop? Where to end? Looking at some different ways of handling narrative time and story structure. ‘Writing on from first lines’ and ‘Writing towards a last line.’

Week Five – Imagery and symbolism; what are they, and how can short story writers deploy them powerfully in their work? How can a metaphor/image be extended as a way of shaping a story? How can an object, colour, sound or smell be used to pull a story together?

Week Six – Cut, cut, cut (said Chekov). Writing is re-writing; we’ll look at how to edit, how to sculpt, change, and cut where necessary to make our stories as clear and polished as possible.

We’ll also look at the current ‘market’ for short stories and discuss how to send our stories out into the wider world.

During the short fiction writing course, we’ll look at a variety of examples of this fascinating and flexible literary form. Home assignments will be set each week and there will be opportunities to share your work with the group and to receive constructive feedback throughout the course, from the tutor and from your peers. You’ll also be encouraged to read widely and to share your findings and recommendations with the group.

You are welcome to submit to the tutor a ‘work in progress’ (up to 3000 words) for written feedback, after week 6.


Refund Policy: tickets are non-refundable


15 September 2021 - 20 October 2021
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Full Price: £145 / Conc £100

Book Now
Image of Pen and word 'online'