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The Art of Storytelling

Learn powerful storytelling techniques to captivate your readers. Since the principles storytelling are universal, we’ll explore the work of brilliant storytellers in a variety of genres—from writers like Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, and Tina Fey to stand-up comics like Louis CK and Mike Birbiglia. We'll watch scenes from movies (The Bourne Identity, Up, Casablanca) and TV (Louie, Breaking Bad, True Detective), and we'll read pages from graphic novels like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

We'll listen to stories from The Moth and This American Life and read from the journal Spike Lee kept while he was writing Do The Right Thing. And yes, we will talk about Hamilton. Through all of this, we’ll break down the principles of good storytelling—vulnerability, suspense, goal/obstacle, action/reaction, cause and effect—and you'll learn how to apply those same techniques in your own writing, whether you want to write fiction or nonfiction, stories or essays, a Moth story or a TED talk.

You will learn how to: 

  • tap into your creativity, find your voice, and tell a story that moves people 
  • craft a plot using the principles of story structure 
  • use suspense, tension, and conflict to hook your readers 
  • express yourself and your personality in an honest, authentic way that connects with people  

This class is fun and interactive, balancing classroom instruction with writing prompts and group creativity exercises to help you get unstuck and get into flow. Because the principles of storytelling are universal, the class draws on examples not only from great writers like Vladimir Nabokov, Ernest Hemingway, and Joan Didion, but also from contemporary genres, including:  

  • comedians like Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Amy Schumer
  • TV like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Louie
  • live storytellers from The Moth, This American Life, and TED
  • essays from The New York Times "Modern Love" column, and comic essayist like David Sedaris, Tina Fey, and Sloane Crosley 
  • filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino