Syllabus

The challenging Woodmont Writers Enclave curriculum has a simple goal: To teach clients how to write a novel, especially works of literary historical fiction.

How to Write Literary Historical Fiction
Woodmont Writers Enclave

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Students will learn techniques and devices for imagining, planning and writing a literary historical novel. All but the last day of classes will be held on the Woodmont grounds. Class formats will include lecture, workshop, and independent work. Students will write every day, using historical photos as inspiration for vignettes and dialogues. Work will be handed in at the next class for Professor David Bridges’ review and comments.

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RECOMMENDED READINGS

There are two recommended readings, and Professor Bridges’ four books will be complimentary and provided in ebook format after a student’s application is accepted.

  • Busick, Sean A. A Sober Desire For History, William Gilmore Simms as Historian. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Gardner, John. The Art Of Fiction, Notes On Craft For Young Writers. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.
  • Bridges, David P., The Broken Circle. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013.
  • Bridges, David P., Fighting With JEB Stuart, Major James Breathed and the Confederate Horse Artillery. Arlington, Virginia: Breathed, Bridges & Best, Inc, 2006.
  • Bridges, David P., The Bridges of Washington County: Spanning Work and Nature. Martinsville, Indiana, Bookman Publishing, 2003.
  • Bridges, David P., The Best Coal Company In All Chicago: And How It Got That Way. Martinsville, Indiana, Bookman Publishing, 2003.

LESSON PLAN

1

Introduction and Materials for All Classes: Share copies of Professor Bridges’ works for short discussion. Hand out Bibliography for History/Biography/Historical Fiction. Discussion of writer’s procrastination games. End class with photo-centered creative writing task as students disperse to any location of the farm where they wish to write and be inspired.

2

Reading History: Students will learn how development of the historical context for a narrative’s time period grounds the story in time and place and how a timeline creates a framework on which a story hinges. Discussion of tools for doing historical research. Show how history can be used inductively (particular to general) or deductively (general to particular) to point out the truth to the reader. Distribute Leviathan/Caging material and apply it to human history, timeline.

3

Fictional Dream & Synopsis: Students will learn about the Ethereal Dream state, which gives rise to the creation of scenes, characters and dialogue. Discussion of a synopsis as a tool used to create each chapter of a novel and plot/structure the entire novel, using Professor Bridges’ synopsis as an example. Discussion of themes of a good novel and theme development using portions of “They Died with Their Boots On,” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Discussion of plot/structure techniques to keep readers turning the pages, linear versus modular chapter arrangement and use of the flashback as a literary tool.

4

Historical Photos: In The Atrium Theatre, class will learn the importance of photographs of people, places and things in storytelling.

5

Dialogue, Description & Point of View: Students will learn how to create powerful dialogues and discuss the use of dialogue tags and dialect. Discussion of where description comes from in relation to sight, smell, sound, feel and taste. How to use photos and an author’s everyday life to create powerful descriptions of people and scenes. Discussion of the different points of View used in fiction with a focus on Vessel of Consciousness as a literary tool.

6

Three-Dimensional Character Development: Fiction is a result of good character development, which reveals what is going on internally in the minds of the protagonists manifested by their voices, feelings and actions. Discussion of how to create characters who are round-headed as opposed to characters who are flat-headed. Discussion of the importance of changes in characters as a result of his or her experiences throughout the course of the novel.

7

Realism: In The Atrium Theatre, students will watch “The Lighthorsemen,” which is the World War I saga of the Australian Lighthorsemen, including a scene of the daring British and Australian Cavalry charge to capture the city of Beersheba in the battle against the Germans and the Turks. Discussion of the realism from which can be derived authenticity to writing the scene into story. Segments of “Gettysburg,” which depicts the American Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. View the scene of Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the battle followed by a discussion of the realism depicted. Discussion of Ernest Hemingway’s views on firsthand experience necessary to bring life to a narrative.

8

Historical & Character Analysis: Discussion of the importance of analysis of history and characters throughout a novel. Guest speakers from Callaway will talk about oral history and the regions, including Moonshiner Era, Bear Hunting Historym and Agrarian Traditions. Discussion of how to analyze the history students have researched and written into the story which illumines and develops the characters. Hand out Professor Bridges’ novel chapter to enable the students to learn from this work more about how to analyze history and characters.

9

Faith & Theology:  Discussion of elements of faith that could be woven into the characters’ thoughts and emotions in the novel, if the student is so inclined to develop this in any characters. Faith and theology of the time period generate an important aspect of a novel and potential themes. Students submit copies of their own current writing project or a novel chapter to all students, if they have it, for review in the next class period.

10

Literary Criticism: Students’ shared materials are open to literary constructive criticism by other students.

11

Field Trip: A two-hour drive to The Guest House accommodations, located in the beautiful Appalachian Mountain setting of Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County, Virginia. The final night will be in The Garden, and dinner will be provided by the local Amish followed by a wrap-up discussion. In the morning, after breakfast, Professor Bridges will lead a tour of The Garden, the location of his current novel, “Eden’s Clan.” Discussions along the tour of the importance of viewing scene settings and gleaning what can be learned from site visits for students’ own writing projects and novels. Students departure for home from Burke’s Garden.

The Woodmont Writers Enclave novel-writing course will give aspiring writers all the tools they need to imagine and produce fine works of literary historical fiction. Think you have what it takes?