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Short Story Writing (Non-credit)

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 26th September 2024 (Code CW112-101) Add to Basket Thursdays from
26th September 2024 2:00pm - 3:50pm • (10 classes)
LG49 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Nicky Melville MA MPhil PhD
£195.00 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.

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 literature. Close reading: extracts from True Tales of American Life, Paul Auster, (ed.).

2. Developing a voice: monologues.

Close reading: Muriel Spark & Donald Barthelme.

3. 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: Walter Kirn & Ashapurna Debi.

4. Point of view: limitations and freedoms in short stories.

Discussion: Examine the differences between first and third person narrators, using examples. Charles Johnson & Hassan Blasim.

5. Developing your story structure.

The classic plot – catalyst, build-up, conflict/crisis and resolution – or not. Jhumpa Lahiri & Ben Lerner.

6. Dialogue.

What can a writer bring to dialogue on the page? Students will contribute based on their observations. James Kelman & Tobias Wolff.    

7. A sense of place/setting.

Writers’ use place/setting in their work? Katherine Mansfield & Ernest Hemingway.

8. Reality vs Fantasy.

The uses of fantasy/realism in fiction; imagery and metaphor. Jorge Luis Borges, Camilla Grudova, Richard Brautigan & Samanta Schweblin. 

9. Form.

Form and what is a short story: A selection of short fictions, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams & Ben Pester.

10. Students’ stories.

Students read their own work and discuss story endings. The class will be devoted mainly to reading and discussion of students’ work, as well as a brief discussion about story endings.

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:

  • Write complete short stories;

  • Turn ideas into stories;

  • Develop narrative structures;

  • Develop their own writer’s ‘voice’.


Core Readings


Handouts will be provided.

Auster, P., 2002. True Tales of American Life. London: Faber & Faber

Brautigan, R., 2006. Revenge of the Lawn. Edinburgh: Canongate Books

Bartheleme, D., 2005. Forty Stories. London: Penguin Books

Blasim, H. 2013. The Iraqi Christ. London: Comma Press

Beckett, S., 2009. Company, Ill Seen Ill said, etc. London: Faber and Faber

Borges, L., 2000. Fictions. London: Penguin Books

Debi, A., 2013. Brahma’s Weapon. Createspace Independent Publishing.

Davis, L., 2011. Collected Stories. London: Penguin Books

Ford, R., 2008. The Granta Book of the American Short Story. London: Granta Books Gardner, J., 1991. The Art of Fiction. London: Vintage Books

Grudova, C., 2017. The Doll’s Alphabet. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions. Hemingway, E., 1995. The First Forty Nine Stories. London: Arrow Books

Kafka, F., 2007. Metamorphosis and Other Stories. London: Penguin Books

Kelman, J., 2014. A Lean Third. London: Tangerine Press

Lahiri, J., 2019. Interpreter of Maladies. London: Fourth Estate

Mandelbaum, P., 2005. 12 Short Stories and their Making. New York: Persea Press

Mansfield, K., 2008. Selected Stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Pester, B., 2020. Am I in the Right Place? Norwich: Boiler House Press

Spark, M., 2002. Collected Stories. London: Penguin Books

Williams, D. 2016. FINE, FINE, FINE, FINE, FINE. San Francisco: McSweeney’s

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


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.