Almost any story or novel has at least one thematic concern at play, in addition to all the other elements of narrative craft – plot, characterization, and so on. But often in our own writing, these elements can come across too forcefully or not forcefully enough to our readers. So-called “genre fiction” often relies on ideas—science fiction in particular has famously been called “The Literature of Ideas”—and as a result, can offer techniques to writers of all types of fiction to help integrate theme into their work. Many published authors have made good use of these, and at my own desk, I try to use, subvert, or otherwise remake these techniques or “tropes” towards my own ends.
In this generative intensive, we’ll look at techniques both genre and literary writers have used to integrate thematic “ideas” into short- and long-form fiction—writers like Carmen Maria Machado, Joyce Carol Oates, and Robert Coover, among others. We’ll use exercises to explore these techniques, both to use toward works-in-progress and new work.