Asking and Answering:
The Role of Questions in Fiction Writing
In almost every area of life, finding the right questions to ask is a key to solving problems, gaining insights, and making discoveries. Nowhere is the asking and answering of questions more important than in the creation of works of art, including short stories and novels. When a project falls short of its potential, the artist or author may not have asked enough good questions or known where to look for answers.
In Fred Shafer’s four workshops, he will explain fiction writing in terms of questions that can be asked at every stage of the process, from the arrival of the first impression or idea to the completion of the final draft. He will discuss why newer writers may have difficulty working with questions, and he’ll present ways of identifying the questions that need to be answered, recognizing the differences between questions that serve different purposes, and knowing where to look for answers.
In the last two workshops, he’ll look at questions that writers place directly in stories, including those seemingly raised by the characters, either when they’re alone, thinking about their lives, or when they are interacting with each other in dialogue.
Fred is an editor, writer, and teacher of writing. He was an editor for many years with TriQuarterly, the international journal published by Northwestern University, where he also taught fiction writing and literary editing in the School of Professional Studies. He leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing, from which present and former members have published fourteen books in the last six years. His own essays, reviews, and author interviews have appeared in several journals.