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David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Focus on Fiction: Techniques to Heighten Plot, Dialogue, Setting, Scene, and Theme in Novel and Short Story

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, photo by Aslan Chalom
David Heska Wanbli Weiden, photo by Aslan Chalom
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Does plot-driven fiction mean your book can’t contain complex characters or resonant themes? Does literary work necessarily shun plot? Genre borders in modern literature are fading: agents, editors, and readers love fiction that has nuance and rhythm, but that also urges you to turn pages.

In this critique-based workshop for novel and short story writers, we will explore beginning and advanced genre techniques for plot, dialogue, setting, scene construction, and theme in order to deepen your work. Writing is a mixture of craft and imagination and, as such, we will look at outlining and free association techniques, chapter beginnings and endings, villains, and story “beats,” among other aspects of craft. The ultimate goal in working together is to learn how to create your best possible work by thinking outside the box.

You will be asked to submit a five to ten page double-spaced excerpt (2,500 words max) from a novel or short story and read the submissions of your classmates before we gather. Students will prepare one page of written feedback (as per faculty guidelines to be shared later) of each fellow student’s writing.


  • This is an all-levels workshop.
  • Please submit a cover letter that states your interest in this workshop and gives an overview of your prior workshop experience, if any.
  • The cost is $675. If you are selected to participate in the workshop, a deposit of $300 is required to register, with the balance due by September 30.
  • If you are accepted, you have the option of attending the Keynote on Thursday, January 11, at a reduced price of $150 (we will send you a link upon confirmation). Alternately, you may purchase a ticket to attend the Seminar in full, as it runs after the workshops (January 11 – 14).
  • Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and/or to apply for a Workshop Fellowship Award. (Do not submit a regular application if you are requesting financial aid.)
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.



David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, is the author of Winter Counts, nominated for an Edgar Award, and winner of an Anthony Award, Thriller Award, Lefty Award, Barry Award, Macavity Award, Spur Award, High Plains Book Award, Crimefest Award (UK), Crime Fiction Lover Award (UK), the Electa Quinney Award, and the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing. The novel was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an Indie Next pick, main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and a best book of the year by NPR, Publishers WeeklyLibrary Journal, the Guardian, and other magazines. He has short stories appearing or forthcoming in the anthologies The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2022Denver NoirMidnight HourThis Time for SureNever Whistle at Night, and The Perfect Crime.

He received the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship in 2018-2019. He is the recipient of fellowships or residencies from MacDowell, Ucross, Ragdale, Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Tin House.

Weiden is a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and serves on the faculty of Cedar Crest College’s Pan-European MFA program and Regis University’s Mile-High MFA program.