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The University of Southampton

ENGL6117 The Art and Craft of Fiction

Module Overview

This module offers advanced training in the writing of fiction, and does so in a wider international context than the usual selection of UK and possibly US texts allows. Instead of basing our examples of good practice only in British and American fiction, a distinctive feature of this module is that literary texts and examples studied will also be drawn from international sources. Fiction from Europe, Canada, South Asia and the Caribbean, as well as other parts of the world, will provide a wide-ranging perspective and offer many new paths for development of your work. Taught by a combination of seminars and workshops, the module will explore both the practical techniques used by professional writers of fiction and the literary theory behind them, but there will be opportunities to discuss your own work in a workshop atmosphere as well as to reflect on published texts. It is not necessary to have a special background to take this module. The practical element here is to learn to apply these technical elements to your own fiction, without resorting to pastiche or parody.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how to write in a range of fictional genres and styles
  • how to achieve originality, linguistic versatility, and form in the handling of plot, character, time, point of view, and overall structural control in your fiction writing
  • the achievements of contemporary international fiction writers whose work may help you improve your own writing
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • handle complex demands of fictional composition in a systematic and analytic manner
  • make literary judgements of fiction in an informed way
  • independently evaluate and apply compositional methods
  • interact effectively with readers via your writing
  • demonstrate originality through your writing
  • locate your fiction writing in relation to a global context
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write prose fluently in a range of styles
  • present ideas effectively in narrative form
  • revise and edit creative writing to a professional standard
  • manage deadlines and make effective use of your time
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan the extended development of a fictional narrative towards a successful conclusion
  • revise and edit your work effectively
  • distinguish your aims as a writer of fiction from others
  • create the key structures of fictional narrative and identify their relation to readers
  • work with different styles, modes and genres of fiction


This module will allow you to develop a work of fiction within the supportive crucible of a group of fellow writers. You will be guided by a tutor who will provide examples of various literary techniques drawn from a range of international examples, allowing you to expand the breadth and depth of your literary reference points. Through careful discussion of a wide range of international fiction, you will hone your own craft and explore a number of new writing strategies.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module will train you in how to listen and discuss creative work in progress, analyse a range of international fiction, and to reflect on your own creative practice. You will give oral feedback on work-in- progress by your fellow writers, and explore literary techniques from a writer’s standpoint.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

John Fowles (2005). The French Lieutenant's Woman. 

Ian McEwan (2001). Atonement. 

Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard (1994). You’ve Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories that Held them in Awe. 

Arundhati Roy (1997). The God of Small Things. 

Jerome Stern (1991). Making Shapely Fiction. 

Kazuo Ishiguro (1989). An Artist of the Floating World. 

Jack Zipes. The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding. 

Marilynne Robinson (2004). Housekeeping. 

John Gardner (1991). The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. 

Margaret Atwood (1986). The Handmaid's Tale. 

Jean Rhys (1982). Wide Sargasso Sea. 

David Michael Kaplan (1998). Rewriting: A creative approach to writing fiction. 

Angela Carter (1993). The Bloody Chamber. 

Vladimir Nabokov (2001). Laughter in the Dark. 

Ben Nyberg (1988). One Great Way to Write Short Stories. 

Charles E. May (2002). The Short Story: The Rules of Artifice. 

Madison Smartt Bell (2000). Narrative Design. 

Sol Stein (1995). Stein on Writing. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (5000 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1100 words) 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (5000 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1100 words) 25%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Books studied on the module.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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