A new session of each course opens each month, allowing you to enroll whenever your busy schedule permits!
How does it work? Once a session starts, two lessons will be released each week, for the six-week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends.
Keep in mind that the interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes 2 weeks after each lesson is released, so you’re encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.
The Final Exam will be released on the same day as the last lesson. Once the Final Exam has been released, you will have 2 weeks plus 10 days to complete the Final and finish any remaining lessons in your course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.
Lesson 01 - Story Structure
The name of this course really says it all! For the next six weeks, we'll focus on techniques that professional authors use to write effectively and efficiently and that guarantee a story structure that delivers maximum emotional impact. After all, connecting with your audience is what great writing is all about, right? In this first lesson, we'll explore the idea of story structure, and you'll discover that nearly every piece of fiction that works follows the same fundamental rules. We'll also look at the often misunderstood difference between story and plot, a concept that will be vital throughout the rest of this course.
Lesson 02 - The Dramatic Elements
At the heart of every story are the dramatic elements of passion, theme, character, and premise. Your passion is what drives you to tell your story, and the theme is the underlying message it carries. To convey your theme, you'll create characters who represent that theme—either positively or negatively. Put all of these together and you've got your premise. We'll talk about all of these elements in today's lesson.
Lesson 03 - Character
Character is what story is all about. Without a character, and a change in that character, there can be no story. In this lesson, you'll discover why the best characters are flawed. We'll explore your main character—the protagonist—and the opposition forces of the antagonist. And finally, we'll take a look at the other characters who round out your story.
Lesson 04 - Act 1: Hook, Backstory, and Trigger
Today's is the first of three lessons in which you'll see how to construct a story outline, act by act. In Act 1, you'll learn how to hook your readers. Then you'll fill them in with some character history called backstory. And finally, you'll exit Act 1 with a bang by triggering a traumatic event in the life of your protagonist.
Lesson 05 - Act 2: Crisis, Struggle, and Epiphany
If Act 1 ends with a bang, Act 2 starts with a whimper. Your protagonist begins in crisis, an emotional state brought on by his or her flaw. And because of that flaw, your protagonist will struggle throughout Act 2, as the antagonist delivers setback after setback. Fortunately, at the conclusion of Act 2 your protagonist finally figures out the source of all this emotional distress and how to overcome it.
Lesson 06 - Act 3: Plan, Climax, and Ending
The epiphany that ended Act 2 has prepared your protagonist for triumph in Act 3. Now it's time to devise a plan. The result will be a final confrontation with the antagonist. In this lesson, we'll discuss the best way to arrange the defeat of your antagonist—it's not what you might guess. Then, with that climax behind you, you're ready to tie up loose ends in the ending.
Lesson 07 - The Story Idea
We've accomplished a lot in the last few lessons. By now you should be pretty comfortable with story structure. In the next three lessons, we'll take the concepts you've learned so far and apply them to the development of a real novel. Today we'll begin by using the dramatic elements to create a character, his or her flaw, and then put it all together into a formal story idea.
Lesson 08 - The Story Outline
In this lesson, we'll expand the story idea for a novel into the nine checkpoints of our three-act outline. This is quite a challenge for just one lesson, but we've become pretty expert at this story structuring stuff by now, so let's go!
Lesson 09 - The Long Form
Now that you have your outline—and a beautiful one it is!—it's time for that magical moment when you begin expanding it into the long form. Yikes! The actual novel is about to materialize. We'll begin by inserting markers for the scenes that support and develop the outline. Then you'll start expanding those scenes and threading your theme throughout. This is really writing like a pro!
Lesson 10 - Plan Like a Pro
One of the most important choices an author makes is viewpoint. It affects every aspect of the story—from theme, to pacing, to suspense. In this lesson, we'll explore the three most common viewpoints—omniscient, third-person limited, and first person—and discover their advantages and disadvantages. Then we'll dig into techniques for developing characters and establishing a convincing story logic.
Lesson 11 - Plot Like a Pro
In this lesson, we'll look at techniques for refining your plot and controlling its pace. Then we'll unravel the internal structure of every piece of fiction you've ever read, discovering a structure that I bet you never knew existed. After today, you'll never forget it. It's called scene and sequel.
Lesson 12 - Write Fiction Like a Pro
Now that your novel, play, or screenplay is well underway, it's time to think about polishing the final product. In this lesson, we'll look at some techniques for making your writing sparkle, including tips on dialogue and imagery and how to use them to show, not tell. We'll also see how to establish your own unique voice, paying special attention to the aspects of cadence and musicality. Finally, we'll talk a little about the creative process and your role now that you know how to . . . write like a pro.