Advanced Fiction: First Novels, First Pages
June 1 @ 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm
An event every week that begins at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, repeating until July 6, 2021
Instructor: Bruce Holsinger
$100 Members | $108 Nonmembers
Tuesdays, 6/1/21 – 7/6/21 | 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm
Class Requirement: Students are required to submit a one-paragraph description and the first ten pages of their novels to the instructor for approval to enroll in the class. Please email samples to email@example.com.
As any agent or editor will tell you, a fiction submission can stand or fall on the strength of the first page. Does the page resonate with a voice that pulls you in? Do the novel’s opening sentences seduce the reader with a beguiling premise, an impossible situation, a provocative glimpse at an imagined world to come? Does the first page create suspense, intrigue, fascination? Most importantly, do these dozen-odd sentences compel the reader to keep reading?
This class will explore the art and craft of the first page. We’ll take our examples from novels published in the last twenty-odd years: the openings of award-winning and bestselling debut novels that had to run an impossible gauntlet of evaluation and skepticism to win their authors a contract, publication, and acclaim—to say nothing of readers. We will carefully consider the formal and stylistic elements that go into a powerful opening: point of view, character, voice, figurative language, suspense, and so on. We’ll also think about how early pages set the stage for the novel to come, and how they bear on story structure, character, and premise. Examples will come from across the genres of fiction, including thrillers and mysteries, romances and fantasy, literary fiction and domestic suspense. Participants will workshop first pages from their own novels in progress with their classmates.
Bruce Holsinger is a fiction writer and literary scholar based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author most recently of The Gifted School (Riverhead Books, 2019), hailed by The New York Times as “a suspenseful, laugh-out-loud page-turner and an incisive inspection of privilege, race and class” and by The Wall Street Journal as the “novel that predicted the college admissions scandal.” The Gifted School has been optioned for television by NBC/Universal and is currently in development. His previous books include A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, award-winning historical novels published by William Morrow (HarperCollins). His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Slate, and many other publications. His work has been featured several times on NPR.
Since 2005 he has taught in the Department of English at the University of Virginia, where he specializes in medieval literature and modern critical thought and serves as editor of the quarterly journal New Literary History. His nonfiction books have won major awards from the Modern Language Association, the Medieval Academy of America, and the American Musicological Society, and his academic work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.
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