Diptychs and Triptychs:
Writing Linked Stories

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon

Students in this course will study the different forms that fiction can take, notably the spectrum between “story collection” and “novel.” Located somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, the linked story collection goes by many names: story cycle, novel-in-stories, composite novels, the story sequence, etc.

The wikipedia entry for “short-story cycle” lays out the issues at hand quite well.

In linked story collections, stand-alone pieces are recognized as stories, not chapters. They are often published individually, but when read in the context of a book, linked as they are by setting, theme, characters, or geography, the stories gather accumulated meaning and the book assumes the kind of unity we ascribe to novels.

Using a few of these books as models, students will complete a 20-30 page manuscript that uses the form of the diptych=2, triptych=3, or tetratych=4, and so on. A portion of this project can be a story you’ve already written.

You should think of this course as a group independent study. You will be required to conceptualize your own project for the semester, articulate it to the group, and share your process with each other, working collectively to help each member reach her individual writing goals. We will also practice presenting our work in various online environments (via websites, blogs, and social media) in order to further professionalize ourselves as working writers in the 21st century.

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