Classy Talk with Michael Shilling

Posted Tue, 8/13/2013 - 6:46pm by  |  Category:

What is the title of your class?

Plot: It’s Not a Four Letter Word and Screenwriting 101

People should take Plot: It’s Not a Four Letter Word if . . .

a)      Other people keep reading their work, handing it back, and saying, “This will be better when something happens.”

b)      You’re ready to admit that epiphanies at the end of stories do not constitute action

c)      You’d like a little more “Breaking Bad” in your work and a little less Alice Munro 

People should take Screenwriting 101 if . . . they want to learn the essentials of screenwriting, and all the ways it is almost completely different from the essentials of prose.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how? 


Twitter: @Shilling664

Are any of your works online and available to the public? (If no, we’ll remove this question from your survey

Not any of my fiction, but here’s a link to the work I’ve written for MSN Music.

And for The Stranger.

What excites you about the material you’re teaching?

For the Plot class: In prose, plot doesn’t mean a lot happens. It simply means your characters are in genuine conflict with each other over competing desires. Helping writers implement that simple truth, and integrate it with other narrative elements, makes for an exciting class.

For Screenwriting: Screenwriting has its own rhetoric and rules, and showing prose writers and poets how to use those rules to tell stories is fun, illuminating, and mysterious.

Tell us a bit about your previous teaching experience.

I’ve taught creative writing and critical thinking at a variety of schools, including the University of Michigan, Seattle University, and Cornish College of the Arts. I‘ve also been teaching at the Hugo House for a few years.

What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?

The students are committed and smart, talented and generous. They teach me as much as I teach them.

What’s the best piece of writing you’ve read in the past year?

Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood

What books made you want to write?

The White Album by Joan Didion

Libra by Don Delillo

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Everything that you write and don’t like is a big step to writing something you love. So get to work.

If you were to meet your favorite writer in person later today, what would you say to them?

Why you gotta be so cruel?

What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?

Nightmare Alley, by William Lindsay Gresham (Absinthe)