Plotting: The Dark Art
September 19

This is a one-day workshop:

Saturday, September 19, 10am-4pm (6 hours)


About the Workshop:

Join James Patrick Kelly for a weekend of lectures, slides, exercises, anecdotes, contests, and other hijinks in which he will talk very quickly as he attempts to explain everything he has learned about plotting in the last forty years. No matter how long you’ve been writing, you’ll discover that you too can make up inciting incidents, startling twists, thrilling climaxes and telling denouements with the best of them!

Although in some circles, plot is regarded as secondary to characterization and perhaps even not all that important, in this workshop deft plotting is a regarded as a virtue. Various experts have opined that there are only three basic plots. Or seven. Or nine. Or twenty. They are all probably right, but merely knowing the difference between the Rags to Riches plot and the Voyage and Return plot isn’t going to help you get your protagonist out of those tight fixes she seems to wander into with alarming regularity. Plot and character are to story as wave and particle are to the electron; they can’t be separated since they are different aspects of the same thing. But for the dark purposes of this seminar, we will pretend this isn’t so and take a very mechanistic view of plot. Over the ages, writers have developed schemes and techniques and shortcuts and, yes, tricks of plotting (What, mistaken identities again, Mr. Shakespeare?). We’ll look at many of the easiest, the best and the most dangerous of these. Only those who feel certain that they can resist succumbing to the dark art of plotting should plan to attend.

About the Instructor:

James Patrick Kelly has won the Nebula, Hugo and Locus Awards; his fiction has been translated into eighteen languages. His most recent books are King Of The Dogs, Queen Of The Cats (2020), a novella from Subterranean Press and a collection, The Promise of Space (2018), from Prime Books. He recently retired from the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA program after spending fifteen years on the faculty and has had the honor of teaching Clarion West and Clarion fourteen times. But who’s counting?

Workshop Details:

This class will be held online via Zoom. Students should plan to test their video and microphone in advance. Click here for more information about our Zoom policies.

If you have questions about the accessibility of the workshop, format, or content, please contact


Are there minimum age requirements to enter the event?

This workshop is available to anyone aged 18 or older. If you have a question about the minimum age requirement, please email us at

What is the location and transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Class location, parking information, and building access will be sent by email within two weeks of the class start date.

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Please email any questions to: or call 206-322-9083 and select option #1.

What’s the refund policy?

If you sign up but cannot attend the workshop, please give us as much notice as possible so that we can contact a waitlisted student and offer them your spot. In order to process a refund, we must receive 48-hour notice and be able to fill the spot with a waitlisted student. Exceptions may be made given emergency circumstances at administrator’s discretion. If Clarion West cancels the class for any reason, refunds will be made as soon as possible after the class has been cancelled.

Is it ok if the name on my ticket or registration doesn’t match the person who attends?

If you are signing up for someone else, please send an email to and tell us your information and the name, email, and contact information for the person you are registering for. Clarion West does not share contact information with any other organization.

Are there any scholarships available?

Clarion West has a limited number of scholarships for our year-round programs. If you are interested in a scholarship, please email us at and tell us a little bit about why you want to attend and why you need a scholarship.