Spandrels: Using In-Scene Objects to Guide Your Story’s Narrative

with Instructor: Patricia McCrystal She/Her/Hers

Class Info

Spandrels: Using In-Scene Objects to Guide Your Story’s Narrative

In “Narrative Spandrels,” a craft essay on fiction-writing in The Half-Known World, Robert Boswell explains how in-scene objects can be used to provide an emotional undercurrent in a way that feels both surprising yet inevitable, satisfying, and authentic:

“…a story’s narrative is typically structured by scenes. The construction of any scene will generate by-products—a lamp that flickers, a passing stranger who comments on a main character’s shoes, an incontinent dog, a green light at the end of a dock, a stutter, a tattoo of a spider’s web, a pattern in the snow that makes the character think of pitted cheeks. These by-products come into existence to make the scene more vivid and complete, but they may ultimately determine the design of the narrative mosaic to such an extent that they will appear to be the primary units of structure.”

In this virtual two-hour craft course, you’ll learn how to identify and excavate narrative spandrels in your working drafts to give your short fiction or non-fiction stories a strong sense of emotional resonance and direction.

You’ll learn the difference between symbols and spandrels, look at examples of spandrels in other short stories, and explore how in-scene objects can work as a compass for both the exterior and interior plot of your drafts.

What To Bring

1-2 working drafts (do not need to be complete) of short fiction or nonfiction (preferably around 5k words or less).


This is a one-time 2 hour class via Zoom:

  • Next class TBA


The cost of this workshop is $25 with priority given to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students. Scholarships are available and plentiful — for more information about the Scholarship Program, please click the registration link below!

About The Instructor

Patricia aka Patty McCrystal is a fiction writer from Arvada, Colorado. She received her MFA in Fiction from the Mile High MFA program at Regis University. Her short story “Last Words” has recently been nominated for the Best of Net award and anthology. Her short story “All Possible Exits” received a 2020 Pushcart Prize nomination, and won the Slippery Elm 2020 Prose Prize. Her work can be found on the stage on PBS and Head Room Sessions, and on the page in Atticus Review, JMWW Journal, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Fellow Magazine, Birdy Magazine, and more. Patty is also an editor for the Hard Times workshop, a community writing program for those experiencing homelessness and economic hardship, hosted through Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Write Denver.

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Patricia McCrystal is depicted in the photo above. She is a white woman with long brown hair and bangs. She has dark blue eyes and round, light blue and brown tortoiseshell glasses. She is wearing a white and blue sleeveless floral dress.