With publishing pros, a great story will get your foot in the door.
Voice and vision will get you published.
The third course of the Workshops Against Empire alternative MFA program—
now available in a self-paced format for just $197!
Agents and editors will tell you it's the #1 thing that gets their attention in a submission: a compelling voice and a clear point of view (POV).
Spend some time working your way through the slush pile for a journal or contest, and you'll find it too—that special something that sets certain submissions apart from the rest, often from the very first lines.
It's the sense of actually inhabiting the mind of another, and the world as they see it.
It's the sense of a fictional vision, fully realized.
In this self-paced course, I'll help you tune in the unique voice of your novel, and help you ensure that your readers find your POV characters just as compelling as you do. With techniques borrowed from the emerging body of neuroscience associated with fiction, as well as from some of the best prose stylists working today, this class will help you make a quantum leap forward with your craft.
You'll emerge with a novel that feels inexplicably real and alive, in a way your readers probably won't be able to explain—but won't be able to put down.
Frequently Asked Questions
Section One: Close POV
Whether you're writing in first person or third, a close POV creates a strong sense of intimacy between the reader and the character, a sort of Vulcan mind meld wherein their thoughts are our thoughts, their feelings, our feelings. Topics covered in section one of this course include:
- Why a close POV is so powerful
- The most common ways that writers slip out of a close POV, and lose their readers
- Interiority and how to use it
- The most effective way to convey emotion, in a way your reader can actually feel
- How to make use of narrative distance within a close POV, adding layers of complexity and nuance to your story
Section Two: Filter and Aesthetics
In fiction, the character's POV is the filter through which we see the world of the story—and to quote Anaïs Nin, "we don't see the world as it is, but as we are." Topics covered in this section of the course include:
- How to describing scene and setting in a way that will feel just as important and vital to your reader as the story's action and dialogue
- How to create a consistent mood and compelling aesthetics via what you choose to describe and how you choose to describe it
- Filter: How to reveal character and backstory in the way your characters see and describe the world
- Diction: How to reveal character and backstory via your your characters' word choices
Section Three: Agency, Idiosyncrasy, and Attitude
Prose that feels alive on the page doesn't necessarily just flow out of the author's mind in that form—it's carefully crafted in revision, using a few simple but powerful techniques. Topics covered in section three of this course include:
- How to identify what it is that makes your style unique (and how to consciously shift your style depending on the story)
- Why strong verbs and specific nouns are so important in fiction
- How to immediately increase the clarity and appeal of your prose via "attitude"
- Best practices for figurative language (metaphors and similes)
Section Four: Professional-Strength Prose
Professional-strength prose is prose that has been cooked down and refined into its most potent, vivid form. In this final section of the course, we'll cover:
- Power sentences: how to generate them and how to use them
- How to spot and eliminate hidden redundancies and "weasel words"
- The importance of strong endings—paragraphs, sections, and chapters
- How (and why) to make sure you're using words precisely
- How to command your reader's attention at the level of the line
Praise for Susan's Courses
— Anatomy of the Novel —
"This class is just tremendous! When I started this story I had a character voice, some thematic ideas, and some snippets of scenes. Now I have a clear path for a novel. I’m over the moon!"
- E. Carruthers
"About halfway through this course, I had that massive AHA moment, where everything fell into place and I've been on fire ever since. THANK YOU. You truly are a genius."
- J. Langdon
"This course has helped me understand the rules of long-form fiction in a much deeper way. Your knowledge of the writing process—and your ability and enthusiasm in sharing it—are exceptional."
- A. Kenyon
"The class format, constructive feedback, lecture notes & recorded zoom calls made for an excellent class!"
- S. R.
— Being Scene —
"This class is a revolution."
- A. Burns
"Sincerely, this has been the single best investment I’ve made in a craft class."
- C. Wilcox
"I'm finding this deep dive into scene to be a real key to unlocking some of the mysteries of novel writing."
- P. Kealey
"Thank you so much for how clearly you outline everything in these emails and on Teachable. Having the written material (and in a format that can be printed) as well as video and live lecture is super helpful. I’m finding the way you’ve organized all of the material very accessible for someone who normally struggles with the online format!"
- M. Clifton
— Story Medicine —
"If you are a writer with a sincere desire to weave social justice issues and diverse characters into your fiction, this course is highly recommended!"
- D.L. Diener
“An invaluable how-to guide on conveying authentic emotion in fiction.”
- A.S. Gunn
“I am finding myself bringing to light beliefs that I have about the world that I've never been able to express. You’re allowing me to see that that's exactly what I need to write about. That there are others who may see themselves in my work and be acknowledged. That my book may free them to go off and change the world in ways that I could not.”
- T. Thayer
“Getting all the feels from this Story Medicine course. I’m so glad to have found it!”
“I registered for Story Medicine back in October and I'm LOVING IT!!! In fact, I submitted a short story for an anthology call. The story is very strong because of your course. I'm proud of it and hope it gets accepted. I'll keep you posted!"
About Your Instructor
An American of Indo-Guyanese descent, Susan DeFreitas is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award, and the editor of Dispatches from Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin, a finalist for the Foreword INDIES. Her work has been featured in the Writer’s Chronicle, LitHub, Story, Daily Science Fiction, Portland Monthly, and High Desert Journal, among other journals and anthologies. An independent editor and book coach, she specializes in helping writers from historically marginalized backgrounds, and those writing socially engaged fiction, break through into publishing. She divides her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon.