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In this class we will address setting and backstory, two tools of fiction writing that are rich in potential but are underutilized. Writers often think of setting as simply the place and time in which events occur, but in this class we will first focus on setting as a way to shape and reveal a character, and we will then discuss the ways that setting can be used to isolate or challenge a character, leading to conflict.

“Over the years, numerous students have told me that they don’t feel comfortable writing backstory or have been told to avoid backstory,” says instructor Lori Ostlund. “My general philosophy is to utilize all tools, and backstory is one more tool to help writers make sense of their characters and give meaning to the plot. In this class we will look at ways to incorporate backstory through summary, exposition, flashback, and narrator recollection. We will also discuss some of the reasons that backstory has gotten a bad rap.”

We will look at examples from short stories and novels and engage in in-class exercises that focus on setting and backstory. Participants will use these exercises to create work at home, which we will workshop during the last two weeks of class. “My goal,” Lori says, “is for us to think about these craft elements in ways that are new and generative.”



No Instructor Specified

  1. Saturday, November 4, 10:30am-1:00pm
  2. Saturday, November 11, 10:30am-1:00pm
  3. Saturday, November 18, 10:30am-1:00pm
  4. Saturday, December 2, 10:30am-1:00pm
  5. Saturday, December 9, 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.

    Carole Stivers


Saturday, November 4, 2017 @ 5:30 pm PDT
Saturday, December 9, 2017 @ 9:00 pm PDT
Event Category:


San Francisco
2042 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA United States
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Cancellation Policy

10 days or more before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 10% fee OR a refund minus a 20% fee.

3-9 days before the start date for a class, the registrant will receive a credit minus a 20% fee OR a refund minus a 30% fee.

2 days or less before the start date for a class, the registrant will not receive a credit or a refund.

The Writing Salon cannot offer refunds, credits, or makeup sessions for classes a student might miss.

In the event of an emergency, we may consider a refund or credit, whether partial or full. We review these requests on a case-by-case basis, and we ask that you notify us as near as possible to the start date for the class.

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