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Short Story Writing (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 16th January 2019 (Code CW068-202) Add to Basket Wednesdays from
16th January 2019 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Nicky Melville MA MPhil
£168.00 Concessions and discounts

Course Summary

In our busy, fast moving world, the short story gives pause for thought, capturing a definitive or significant ‘moment’ in people’s lives. Learn how to use the brevity of the form, to perfect your prose style, make serious points about the way we live, and to entertain and to surprise the reader.

Please note - this is a credit course and has an integrated digital component.  All students enrolled on credit courses are required to matriculate through the university student system EUCLID. If you do not do so you will not be able to access information provided by your tutor nor will you be able to submit work for assessment. Please read our Studying for Credit Guide, Rules and Regulations for more information.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous experience required.

Content of Course

  1. Introduction to genre and starting a short story.
    The development of storytelling from oral traditions to literature
    Close reading: extracts from Auster, P. (2002)
  2. Developing a voice: monologues.
    Close reading: 'You Should Have Seen the Mess', from Spark, M. (2002)
  3. Developing your story structure.
    The classic plot: catalyst, build-up, conflict/crisis and resolution – or not.
    Breaking with conventions.
    Close reading: excerpts from Gardner, J. (1991)
  4. Developing a character.
    How to build up a character in your writing: the importance of using description and choosing details that reveal the character’s person.
    Close reading: ‘The Hoaxer’, Mandelbaum, P. (2005).
  5. Dialogue.
    What can a writer bring to dialogue on the page? Students will contribute their ideas based on their observations.
    Close reading: ‘The Rich Brother’, Ford, R. (2008).
  6. Point of view: limitations and freedoms in short stories
    Discussion: Examine the differences between first and third person narrators, using examples.
    Close reading: ‘China’,Mandelbaum, P. (2005).
  7. Using imagery and metaphor.
    How imagery and metaphor strengthens a story and helps to show not tell.
    Close reading: ‘The Drowned Rose’, Mackay Brown, G. (2004)
  8. A sense of place.
    How do writers’ use places and settings in their work? Using students suggestions we can make a list, then look at some examples of writing I have provided.
    Close reading: ‘The Lost Salt Gift of Blood’, MacLeod’, A. (2002).
  9. Reality v fantasy in short stories.
    The uses of fantasy in fiction. Magical realism: the conjunction of realistic details with the fantastic. Close reading: Handout: Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities,' and extracts from ‘May’, Smith, A. (2004).
  10. And Finally: Students read their work and discuss story endings.
    Readings. The class will be devoted mainly to reading and discussion of the student’s work after a brief discussion of short story endings with reference to handouts provided.

Teaching method(s)

Each two hour session will comprise of four elements: discussion of assignments and work in progress; practical writing exercises in class and given as assignments; close reading and discussion of texts – one per week, related to the theme of each class; individual feedback to be provided as and when appropriate.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. write complete short stories;
  2. turn ideas into stories;
  3. develop narrative structures;
  4. develop their own writer’s ‘voice’.


Core Readings


Auster, P., 2002. True Tales of American Life. London: Faber & Faber.
Ford, R ., 2008. The Granta Book of the American Short Story. London: Granta Books.
Gardner, J., 1991. The Art of Fiction. London: Vintage Books.
Mackay Brown, G.,2004. Hawkfall. Edinburgh: Polygon.
Mandelbaum, P., 2005. 12 Short Stories and their Making. New York: Persea Press.
Smith, A., 2004. The Whole Story And Other Stories. London: Penguin Books.
Spark, M., 2002. Collected Stories. London: Penguin Books.


Bradbury, M., 1988. The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories. London: Penguin Books.
Brande, D., 1996. Becoming a Writer. London: Pan Books.
Chekhov, A P., 1999. The Essential Tales of Chekhov. London: Granta Books.
Lahiri, J., 2000. The Interpreter of Maladies. London: Flamingo.
Trevor, T., 2001. The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.