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What Happens Next? Explore Cause and Effect in Fiction with Derek Palacio

Derek Palacio
Derek Palacio

GREENSBORO—The task of any fiction writer is to plot a sequence of events that stem organically—and believably—from the choices our characters make. Our narratives are like “Newton’s Cradles,” where one swinging silver ball pushes another silver ball on the far end of the line, except as writers we can’t be that linear about it, or that obvious. 

Derek Palacio teaches in the MFA Program of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He’ll lead the Master Class in Fiction, “Cause & Effect in Fiction,” at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2022 Spring Conference, Saturday, April 23, on the campus of UNC-Greensboro.

Conference registration is open.

Derek Palacio received his MFA from the Ohio State University. He is the author of The Mortifications (2016), How to Shake the Other Man (2013), and “Sugarcane” (a short story which appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013). His work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Witness, Story Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of fellowships from the Black Mountain Institute, Ragdale, CubaOne, and the National Park Service. He teaches in the MFA program at UNC-Greensboro.

This course will explore cause-and-effect dynamics within plot development. Through critique of student work and analysis of a few, short published texts, we will examine how cause-and-effect functions in narrative. We will investigate how to build plots that derive from interesting and revealing character choices, and we will seek to gain a better understanding of why cause-and-effect, when judiciously employed, can lead to more complex yet cohesive narrative structures.

Registrants must apply to be admitted into the Master Class; each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class. For full application details and more, click here.

Spring Conference is a full day of courses and programming on the craft and business of writing, offering both on-site (in-person) and online sessions. North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Carole Boston Weatherford will give the Keynote Address. Other sessions of interest to fiction writers include “On Writing Dialogue in Fiction” with Travis Mulhauser and “Manifesting Thisness in Fiction” with Caleb Johnson, both on-site.

The online track offers several options for writers in all genres. Online registrants also will be able to watch livestreams of the Keynote Address, Faculty Readings, and Slush Pile Live!, and participate in an online only Open Mic.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit