PLOT: You Are the Master of Your Story

A Master Class

Every genre category has hundreds of thousands of titles. Whatever kind of story you want to write, you need to make it stand out. Crafting a superior plot will put you ahead of the crowd—way ahead.

In this 8-week workshop, we’ll explore plot from multiple angles, devoting time to each act and its most critical elements—for every genre of fiction.

Things we’ll cover:

  • developing an opening hook that actually hooks the reader
  • successfully mounting the stakes and tension through act II
  • weaving together your main plot and subplots
  • ending with a bang—whether that’s an actual bang or a metaphorical one
  • my special storyboarding process to create structure without killing your creative drive,
  • and way, way more.

Each of the 8 modules includes a presentation of the lesson, a reading or film, a live Q&A period, and group discussion.

If you can’t make a live call, don’t worry. The calls will all be recorded.

You'll also enroll in a student forum where you can get to know your peers, give each other feedback, ask questions, and continue the conversations about your work, their work, and the course materials.

I'll be in the student forum, too. In other words, you’ve got a real, live teacher working with you throughout the entire course.

Whether you’ve never tackled a novel before or are ready to craft your tenth, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of plot...

And write your next novel better.


You get a real, live teacher throughout our time together:

  • talk to me in real time on our weekly live calls,
  • share comments & messages in the class forum,
  • write to my personal email.

Course Curriculum

  Course Syllabus
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 2: Characters, Setting, & Act I
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 3: Act I cont. & Storyboarding Instructions
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 4: Act II, part 1
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 5: Act II, part 2
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 6: Subplots & Supporting Characters
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 7: Act III, part 1
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 8: Endings & Theme
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 9: Subtext, Dialogue, Of Mice & Men
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Week 10: Workshop, Q&A, Course Review
Available in days
days after you enroll


New to long-form fiction? Old pro?

This course is for you.

Learn Alida's Storyboarding technique that she has used with coaching clients for over 8 years.

Alida never starts a novel without it.

Course Content

Each week, we will:

  • Meet on live calls for discussions & questions—the classroom experience,*
  • Engage with peers in the student forum—the classroom experience,
  • Learn with lectures, reading assignments, & writing exercises,
  • Explore plot in long-form fiction by reading an assigned novel & watching an assigned film,**
  • Journal thoughts about storycraft,
  • Develop your plot with pre-writing,
  • Write key plot points into full scenes,
  • Receive feedback on your work through peer partnership assignments, &
  • Use Alida's Storyboarding technique to complete your novel-in-progress' plot arc.

*Weekly classroom sessions will be held on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Central time (UTC -6) beginning March 3rd. They will be recorded and, barring technical difficulties, made available with each module within 48 hours.

**The novel and any films will be readily available outside of Purchase or rental fees apply.

Note: This is an adult education course. Fiction we read may contain sexual or violent content and swearing. It will not be extreme or gratuitous, but you should be comfortable with the possibility of encountering some "rated R" material.

Course opens on Sunday, March 1.

First live call will be on Tuesday, March 3rd. All live calls are at 2:00 p.m. Central time. (Check a time zone converter for your local time.)

All live calls are recorded and will be available as soon as possible.

Break week March 23-27, with no live call Tuesday, March 24th.

Last live call will be on Tuesday, April 28th.

The course ends Thursday, April 30th.


Discover a detailed method for plot development, while honing a set of tools you can use each time you craft a new story!

Your Instructor

Alida Winternheimer
Alida Winternheimer
I look forward to guiding this creative inquiry into writing from memory, emotion, and body. I hope you’ll take this journey with me and our fellow writers. It is sure to be as enriching as it is challenging, from both a craft and personal perspective. What better way to embark on an adventure than together?


Alida Winternheimer is an award-winning author and experienced teacher, editor, and writing coach. She’s published numerous short stories, two of which were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Alida is the creator and host of two literary podcasts: Story Works Round Table, conversations about craft; and Story Works Reading Series, a literary journal for your ears. She is the author of the Story Works Guide to Writing Character and the Story Works Guide to Writing Point of View.

Her essay, "The Sun Still Shines on the Worst Day of Your Life" was recently published in Under the Sun and nominated for the Best American Essays anthology.

Every day, Alida helps writers write better through her craft books, the Story Works Fiction online school, free writing tips, and her podcasts. When she's not writing or teaching, you can spot her around Minneapolis on her bike, in her kayak, or being walked by her golden retriever.


Who is this course for?

Are you eager to learn more about building plot and fiction writing overall?

This course is suitable for writers at all levels. While the materials are the same for every student, what you bring to the readings, discourse, exercises, and your own writing will depend on where you’re at in your study of fiction. You’ll create a personal experience through your ability to apply principles of plot construction and craft to each lesson, to your conversations in the student forum, to the questions you pose in the classroom, and—best of all—to the writing you do over the semester!

Do you wish you could take an MFA-level workshop without taking out a student loan?

Now you can study plot in a course built for a live, semester-long classroom experience…and you don’t have to leave your home. Get the best of the classroom experience—instructor engagement, discussions about the materials, and peer feedback—while entering the classroom when you’re available. And avoid the high cost of tuition, scheduling another weekly commitment around work and family, driving and parking concerns, and others that accompany traditional learning.

Alida has an MFA and is trained in pedagogy. She has taught in many classrooms over the years, including graduate and undergraduate courses she developed at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University. She currently teaches semester-long courses and workshops for the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She’s bringing her expertise to you in an online master class.

Do you find a classroom the most effective way for you to learn?

There's a real charge that comes from shared experience. By working through the materials with a group of peers, you'll benefit from each other's responses to the material. The chance to share your work and comment on others' work is an invaluable training ground for writers at all levels.

This course has a virtual classroom, so you get the best of both online, self-driven learning and a classroom setting. The content is released every week, giving you structure and deadlines. You can meet and work with your peers in the Story Works Fiction forum, available only to students of this course. And, best of all, there will be weekly live calls with your instructor.

Do you appreciate a multi-pronged approach to learning?

In this course, we’ll be working through a variety of texts and exercises, written and developed by your instructor, reading a variety of stories, discussing the materials with each other in the forum and on the live calls, practicing each new skill learned with writing assignments, and giving and receiving feedback on peers’ work.

Who is this course not for?

Are you looking for a blockbuster formula?

You won’t find it here. There is no one magic way to make an exciting, dramatic plot. This course involves work: the work of thinking, reading, pre-writing, and writing. If that sounds like fun, you’re in the right place. If discovering a detailed process for plotting your novels and honing a series of tools you can then modify as part of your innate creative process sounds like more work than you’re ready to accept, I encourage you to look elsewhere.

Do you hate deadlines and find them hard to meet?

In this course, it’s necessary to commit to the full semester and to carve out three to five hours a week to get your work done. Five hours a week is less than 45 minutes each day. (Of course, writing is a creative process we all engage differently, so the actual time you spend each week could vary.)

If you can’t commit to getting the work done, you shouldn’t take a live class or an online class with a live component. To participate in discussions in the forum and on the live calls each week, you need to be prepared. If you don't want the structure of weekly deadlines, wait until the pilot course is over and take it the self-directed version of the course.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
If this is a self-directed course, it starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish. If it is a workshop with a live component, it has a specific start and end date that is posted in the course information. Please check those dates against your availability before enrolling.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.


Join Plot: You Are the Master of Your Story for only $299.

Course runs March 1 - April 30, 2020 with live calls on Tuesdays at 2:00 Central time. All calls will be recorded and made available in the unit modules within 48 hours (barring any technical failures).

Due to the commitment involved in a live course, enrollment is don't miss out!

Note: This is an adult education course. Fiction we read could contain sexual or violent content and swearing. It will not be extreme or gratuitous, but you should be comfortable with the possibility of encountering some "rated R" material.

This course is closed for enrollment.