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One of the first decisions we must make as we begin a new story is about what point of view (POV) we will narrate from. Do we want the intimacy (and restrictions) of 1st person? The perceived credibility (and distance) of 3rd person? Or the flexibility (and navigation issues) of 3rd person-close?
In this 5-week course, we’ll talk about all points of view, but we’ll focus primarily on 3rd person-close, which is perhaps the most commonly used POV. We’ll talk about what it is, how it differs from 1st person, as well as the pros and cons of both, and we’ll discuss how to navigate 3rd person, including when to move close, when to maintain more distance, and how to signal those moves to your reader.
“I’ve received a lot of questions over the years about 3rd-person POV,” says instructor Lori Ostlund. “I’ve found that people often think that 3rd person-close is just a variation on 1st person, or that widening the distance from the character means that the narrator simply becomes invisible, even bland. But I think of 3rd close as a way to have the best of both worlds: to be inside and outside our POV character, depending on what suits the piece’s needs from line to line, page to page.”
We will look at excerpts from short stories and novels and engage in exercises that focus on improving participants’ understanding of and facility with 3rd person-close POV. Participants will use these exercises to create work at home, which we will workshop during class. “My goal,” Lori says, “is for us to think about this important craft element in ways that are instructional but also flexible and generative, and for you to leave this class with the tools and confidence to continue exploring 3rd person-close in your own writing, whether you’re getting ready to start something new or need a fresh way to think about a work-in-progress.”
Lori Ostlund’s novel, After the Parade, was a Barnes & Noble Discover pick, a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her story collection, The Bigness of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and was a Lambda Finalist. Lori’s work has appeared in the Best American Short Stories and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories as well as in ZYZZYVA, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, and other journals. Lori has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award and was a finalist for the 2017 Joyce Carol Oates Prize. She has been a teacher for over twenty-five years in New Mexico, Spain, Malaysia, and North Carolina and is currently on the Mile-High MFA faculty. Since 2022, she has served as the series editor of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She lives in San Francisco, where she is at work on her fourth book, a novel entitled The Proprietresses, based on the years that she and her wife owned a furniture store in Albuquerque. Her third book, a story collection entitled Are You Happy?, will be published by Zando Projects in April 2025.
- Sunday, January 21, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, January 28, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, February 4, 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, February 11 10:30am-1:00pm
- Sunday, February 18, 10:30am-1:00pm
Lori is a great teacher, and came with a plan. She was kind and patient, and steered/started conversations in a tactful way. She skillfully led discussions of the samples we read. When it came to critiquing our own work, any comments were couched in constructive language, and she set the tone for critiques.
She was much more accessible than other teachers I have had in the past. She even went so far as to think further about questions she had already answered in class, and e-mail her thoughts to us later.