Shaping the Short Story

Shaping the Short Story

Who: Felicity Castagna
6 x Wednesday evenings: 7, 14, 21, 28 February; 7, 14 March, 6:30-9:30pm
Cost: Full Price:
$600; Member: $420; Conc Member: $360

This intensive six-week course enables students to thoroughly get their heads around creating memorable, contemporary short stories. The course will cover the basics as well as challenging students to think about the short story form in more complex ways. Each class will cover a set of specific skills, which will lead students through the process of creating a short story from start to finish. Students will be given a course book, writing exercises and the opportunity to discuss and develop their own work. At the end of the course, students will be invited to submit one story for a written critique by Felicity.

Course Outline

Week One:

The Shape of a Story: Students take a close look at the form of the short story. We consider such questions as: What exactly is a short story and how is it different from other forms? We will look at both the shape and structure of a traditional short story and also examine the ways in which writers have experimented with the form. We will discuss what a narrative arc is and how it can be used to give a sense of cohesion to narratives written in any form.

Students will also have a chance to discuss their own writing interests and to brainstorm a story they would like to focus on in this course.

Week Two: 

Less is More: Students look at creating a driving force and narrative tension in their stories through creating tight, simple, plot lines.

Time and Pace: Pacing and timing are integral to ‘pulling off’ the short story form. Students will look at how and where to slow down and speed up the pace of their stories in order to both move their stories forward and to create a sense of suspense.

Week Three:

Whose Story is it? This week students will look at the limitations and benefits of telling a story in first, second or third person and why point of view really matters so much.

Character and Voice: Students will look at strategies for creating strong and memorable characters through focussing on how you develop a unique and individual voice.

Week Four

Setting and Place: This week students will consider the techniques used by writers to convey ‘a sense of place’, as well as looking at the role it plays in short stories. We will look at: specificity, selecting the right details, setting and tone, setting and mood and establishing relationships with place through the use of harmony and conflict.

Week Five

Editing: We take a close look at how to ‘tighten up’ a short story through editing out the unnecessary and focussing on bringing out specific detail.

Publication and Prizes: Now that you’ve written your story what do you do with it? We take a close look at what editors are looking for, how to approach magazines, anthologies, websites and radio producers and how to build a name for yourself through prizes and fellowships.

Week Six

Short Story Workshop: In this week’s lesson students bring a draft of the story they have been working on throughout the course. Students will look at ways of critiquing their own and others’ work as well as receiving feedback from both the tutor and course members.

Pen and paper

About the tutor
Felicity Castagna’s
first book was a collection of stories, Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travel in Asia.  It was followed up with a YA novel set in Parramatta, The Incredible Here and Now, which won the Prime Minister’s Literature Award in 2014. She currently teaches creative writing all around Australia. She is also the founding director of the literary organisation, Finishing School (For Badass Ladies Writing Brilliant Books) and curates Studio Stories – a regular writers’ events at Parramatta Artists Studios. Felicity turned The Incredible Here and Now into a play that premiered at The National Theatre of Parramatta in 2017.  Her work has been produced for ABC Radio National and ABC television and has appeared in publications such as Heat, The Age, The Sun Herald, Island, Wet Ink and Award Winning Australian Writing.  Her latest book is No More Boats. Visit


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