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About This Class

The great thing about writing science fiction and fantasy is that anything can happen. The hard part is that, well, anything can happen.

This Skillshare class will go over principles and guidelines that will help you shape your fantastic worlds and wondrous characters into memorable—and unique—stories. We’ll look at some classic SF/F works like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones, as well as stories that might be new to you, in order to figure out what makes them tick and how we can apply their lessons to generating our own stories.

This class is geared toward introductory writers, however, the ideas and exercises we’ll go over are useful at any level.

Topics discussed include:

  • Worldbuilding
  • The ripple effects of changes to reality
  • Finding new angles on classic tropes
  • Getting into the POV of characters in fantastic realities

Lincoln Michel is the author of the genre-bending collection Upright Beasts and the co-editor of the science fiction anthology Gigantic Worlds and the forthcoming horror anthology Tiny Nightmares. His work appears in The Paris ReviewStrange HorizonsTerraformGranta, and elsewhere. He teaches fiction writing in the MFA programs at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

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Project Description

The class project is to polish one of the exercises below into a 1-3 page story and upload it to the project page.

  • Create your own “invisible city” – an encyclopedia-style description of a fictional setting (city, realm, planet, etc.) in the vein of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Do not focus on individual characters. Turn the setting itself into a character.
  • Destroy your “invisible city” – chronicle the destruction of your invented setting (city, realm, planet, etc.). Think about what threat to your setting makes thematic sense. Focus on the setting as a character, rather than individual people.
  • A sudden transformation – two characters love each other and one of them undergoes a sudden SF or fantasy transformation. (E.g., they suddenly turn into a centaur or mermaid, or they are hit by a mad scientist’s shrinking ray.) Write from either the perspective of the person transforming or the person who must take care of them. How does this change their daily routine? Their feelings toward the other? Their hopes and plans for the future?
  • New Angle on a Classic Tale – pick a common SF/F trope or story and write a new version from the POV of a minor character. Imagine their day to day life.