Shaping Your Story: How a
Screenwriter’s Toolkit Can Help You
Finish (or Start) Your Book

with Christopher DeWan in Pasadena

Two Sundays
10:00 am to 1:00 pm
July 28 and August 4, 2019


Nobody wants a formulaic novel or a memoir that feels like it's painted by numbers—but understanding basic principles of story structure can unlock your narrative in ways that are both surprising and satisfying. Borrowing techniques from screenwriting, we'll examine the structures inherent in your book-in- progress and experiment with ways you can use those structures to make your story more powerful.

In our first session, we’ll explore loglines and how they can be used to clarify the arc of your story. Then we’ll introduce the archetypal three-act hero’s journey as a tool—not for hammering your story into a prescribed or predictable shape, but as a way to help you focus your character’s (and reader’s) emotional transformation. During our one-week break, you’ll create a beat sheet outline to define the key moments of your story, mapping your book to the hero’s journey paradigm, and in our second class, we’ll share these outlines and offer feedback to strengthen the arc and the structure of your book.

This seminar is open to students of all levels. It will be held in Pasadena where coffee, sparkling water, and light snacks will be served.

Enrollment limit: 8 students
$190 for new students; $170 for returning students

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Christopher DeWan is the author of Hoopty Time Machines: Fairy Tales for Grown Ups, a collection of domestic fabulism. He has published more than fifty stories in journals including Bodega, Gravel, Hobart, Passages North, and wigleaf, and he has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His work will be featured in the upcoming Best Small Fictions 2017, edited by Amy Hempel and published by Braddock Avenue Books. He has been a consultant for the literary magazine Electric Literature, a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and a guest artist at the Music Center of Los Angeles. In addition to Writing Workshops LA, he currently teaches at the Idyllwild Arts Academy and the University of California, Riverside.


“Chris DeWan's Tools for Writing Fiction workshop was the first writing class I have taken as an adult and I am so lucky to have stumbled upon his class. Chris is an insightful and inquisitive teacher. His observations about writing—particularly about how to break the process down into little games and puzzles—are enormously helpful, especially to a relatively new writer. I left the class with one or two short stories I am proud of and plan to continue honing for submission. It is obvious that Chris puts a lot of time and thought into his classes—from the short stories that he chooses for homework to the feedback he gives for the student submissions. Chris has pondered deeply about the art of writing. It was a joy to learn from him.” –Stephanie Yu

“Chris DeWan has been amazing. The class is really well structured, his assigned readings are super helpful, and the writing assignments are both challenging and fun. This is the first fiction class I’ve taken since early college and it’s been both challenging and encouraging. Really, I think his approach to teaching is fantastic.” –Caitlin Shamberg

“I’m immensely pleased with Chris DeWan‘s teaching. I love the short stories he has selected for our study. The assignments (both reading and writing) are helpful. Chris’s demeanor with the students is confident, nurturing, and positive.” –Ruth LeFaive

“Chris DeWan‘s workshop is fantastic. He’s so kind, knowledgable, smart, and really focuses on challenging us to write in new, innovative ways. He doesn’t have an overly lectured style, and I appreciate his own desire to really have us talk through things and write as opposed to tell us what is/isn’t writing. The prompts have been very diverse and challenging. And he is excellent at getting even the most quiet members of the group to tell their stories, all while pointing out what’s good and different about them. He’s created a safe, experimental space for me to write and so is meeting all my expectations and more.” –Cole Cradduck


Reviews of Hoopty Time Machines

"Hoopty Time Machines is the literary equivalent of a perfect mix tape: riffs on beloved stories and myths turn the classics upside down and shake shiny new coins out of their pockets, like cover tracks that infuse familiar refrains with surprising energy while retaining all their old magic... There are doorstop novels out there that fail to achieve the emotional impact DeWan can generate with a single honest, well-crafted sentence." —Jersey Devil Press

''One of the 'most anticipated small press books of 2016." —John Madera, Big Other

''Absurd, heartbreaking, terrifying, outrageously funny—the stories in Christopher DeWan's Hoopty Time Machines are all of these things, often all at once. Reading the book is like staring into a spiderwebbed mirror, the perfect vessel by which to understand our fractured, absurdist world. There are hints of Barthelme, Vonnegut, and Calvino to be found here, but make no mistake: DeWan is something gloriously new.'' —Nathan Ballingrud, author of North American Lake Monsters

''Like Barry Yourgrau went on tour with sad, lyrical stand-up routines—funny, sharp, playful zingers of stories that reach right out to grab a reader.'' —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

''Hoopty Time Machines is much like a bag of M&M's, in that it's nearly impossible, once you've opened it, not to consume it down to the last morsel, and fast. It is less like a bag of M&M's in that you never know what you'll find beneath the candy coating: a peanut or an amphetamine, a rosary bead or a thumbtack.'' —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination