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build your story's narrative engine: The first 10 pages

In person at 297 Page Street

Saturday, June 18
10 am - 4 pm


This combination lecture and workshop for both novelists and memoirists could also be called “What the heck is my book really about and how do I make sure the opening works?”

In the first 90 minutes of this class, you’ll learn about the gears of narrative engine: Character, Conflict, and Clock. We’ll discuss lines of tension so that you can identify those big “What?” and “So what?” questions that together will drive your book’s throughline. We’ll examine the openings of successful books to spot these elements, consider what makes for meaningful conflict, and get specific about the aspects of your main character that a reader needs to see in the opening pages if you want your story to feel propulsive. Finally, we’ll consider the pros and cons of a strong story clock to see if a more overt clock might help your own book.

In the second part of class, writers will share their book-in-progress openings for on-the-spot feedback focusing on the elements of narrative engine. You’ll learn as much from thinking about your fellow writers’ openings as you will from receiving feedback on your own, and leave our class with far greater clarity about what your book-in-progress needs to take off from page one.

This class is for writers with novels and memoirs in progress, as well as writers with finished drafts they want to shape up.  


Like all Page Street classes, this workshop is limited to 12 participants. 

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instructor bio

Rachel Howard is the author of a novel, The Risk of Us, which the Associated Press called “simply gorgeous,” and a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder, The Lost Night, which the New York Times described as “enthralling.”


Her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, StoryQuarterly, Zyzzyva, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other venues. She has served as Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow and Interim Director of Undergraduate Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College, and as Distinguished Visiting Writer in the MFA program at St. Mary’s College of California.

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