Phinney Summer Class: How to Train Your Voice

phinney neighborhood center


Class runs Wednesday nights for six weeks, June 17th through July 15th,  with a final class on Aug. 12th.  We will meet at the Phinney Neighborhood Center.  Please see details and registration information below.

Summer 2015 Writing Seminar: “How to Train Your Voice,” and “How to Get the Most Value Out of Inciting Incidents.”  These sound like separate topics, but they are the most asked about concerns and there is an important point of intersection.


When we talk about “voice” we typically talk about the sound and emotional feel of a limited character’s identity as revealed in language. Is it familiar enough? Heated enough with emotion? Does it sound like the character? But “voice” is more than that. What we are really talking about is the language used to tell the story and there are three “voices” that can do that work: 1) a flaneur; 2) an objective observer; and 3) the free indirect discourse that flows from the interior world of a character. In this class we’ll look at multiple examples of all three and practice blending all three to achieve desired effects.


A character’s progress in the story can be measured by what is revealed by actions taken under pressure. The original source of pressure flows out of the Inciting Incident that disturbs the balance of forces in the familiar world and sets in motion a Quest. We will look at best ways to use inciting incidents to generate a story. We will also look at how the reader’s perception of the character’s progress on the quest is controlled by varying applications of voice.

Each week the syllabus will include suggested writing assignments. Some will be drawn from What If (the 2010 Third Edition).  Everyone is invited to bring in one story or novel chapter for workshopping in the final two weeks.  There will be time for one or maximum two pieces to be workshopped in each of the earlier weeks.


Required texts: 1) There’s Something I want You To Do,  a collection of stories by Charles Baxter, Pantheon 2015, ISBN: 978-1-101-87001-3; 2) No One Belongs Here More Than You, a collection of stories by Miranda July, 2007, Scribner, ISBN: 978-0-7432-9941-1; 3) Best American Short Stories 2014; and 4) Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt Back Bay Books (2015 paperback reprint edition), ISBN: 978-0316055444.


Class meets: 6 Wednesdays, 7-9:30 p.m., June 17 through July 15; final class Aug. 12.


Where?: Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Room 6, Building A (Blue Building upstairs).  Call (206) 783-2244 for directions.


Cost: $250


To reserve a spot in the Phinney Neighborhood Center summer course, please mail a deposit of $50 to Scott Driscoll, 7716 Dayton Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103.  The deposit will be deducted from the course fee.  Early sign-up is encouraged.  Please send me an email at to confirm that you are planning to sign up.


Thanks.  Hope to see you this summer.  Scott

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