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The Fundamentals of Fiction

  • Iowa Writer's House 332 East Davenport Street Iowa City, IA, 52245 United States (map)

When: Friday, October 20th, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Saturday, October 21st, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Sunday, October 22nd, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Where:  Iowa Writers' House, 332 East Davenport St

Cost: $265 ($235 early bird pricing through September 1st)


The difference between a person who reads and a person who reads and writes is quite simple: the act of writing itself. But where and how to start? It's one thing to understand how fiction works—the knowledge and ability to identify key elements on the page; it's another thing entirely to apply that same understanding to one's own work. In this weekend workshop, we will discuss in concrete terms how to apply that knowledge of character development, setting, dialogue, conflict, plot, and more to our own work. This will be a fun, lively, and productive weekend, with a host of highly interactive discussions and writing exercises to generate our own work—practicing the fundamental aspects of fiction—so that we might leave with several pages of material and perhaps a draft of something larger and more complete to bring home. 

This course is designed for beginning writers as well as experienced writers who want a refresher. Regardless of level, all are welcome, and all will leave the workshop with better knowledge, understanding, and application of these fundamental elements of fiction. 


Keith Lesmeister is the author of the story collection We Could’ve Been Happy Here (MG Press, 2017). His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, Meridian, North American Review, Redivider, Slice Magazine, and many others. His nonfiction has appeared in River Teeth, Sycamore Review, The Good Men Project, Tin House Open Bar, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. He has taught at Luther College, Northeast Iowa Community College, Viterbo University, and the Vermont Young Writers Seminar. More info can be found at 


When I first started writing, I heard teachers and other writers use terms such as “character development,” “structure,” “sharp dialogue,” or “realistic setting,” and while I understood what these elements were on the page—that is, I could readily identify them in stories and novels—I couldn't seem to translate that knowledge or understanding to my own work. And this is precisely why I am interested in teaching this course: a course that I needed as a beginning writer and in some instances still need as a refresher. I mean, even college and pro basketball players still practice layups, free throws, and the like. It’s part of the learning, developing, and maintaining of muscle memory. My hope is to provide an engaging, safe, supportive, and productive community during our weekend together in Iowa City so that we might discuss, practice, and learn together—writing exercises, free throws, and other surprises along the way.


Everyone has a story to tell. If you are financially unable to attend this workshop, scholarships are available through our generous partners and donors. Apply here.


Helping another person attend a workshop is helping them achieve their dreams. Thank you for making our world a better place.


Earlier Event: October 18
The Science of Story
Later Event: October 25
The Energy of Story