Trent Hergenrader Headshot

Trent Hergenrader

Assistant Professor
Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Office Location

Trent Hergenrader

Assistant Professor
Department of English
College of Liberal Arts


BA in English, University of Wisconsin-Madison; MA, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Creative Writing Studies, Game Studies, Genre Fiction, Digital Pedagogy

My research deals with games and storytelling, using both terms in their broadest sense. Many of the prompts in my creative writing classes come from Surrealist parlor games and OuLiPo constrained writing techniques. While these approaches do not fit some strict definitions of games--they are non-competitive and have no victory condition for example--they can steer writers’ imaginations down unexpected pathways and encourage them to play with language in productive and enlightening ways. Much interactive fiction and some of today's narratively-driven videogames are derived from such experimental writing. My current research project focuses on the role-playing game, both digital and tabletop varieties, and how its generous storytelling capacities can be used productively in fiction writing courses. An RPG requires the player to customize a detailed character who acts as the contact point between the player and the fictional world, and the RPG story emerges from a series of spontaneous choices the player makes on behalf of his or her character. As the story progresses through play, the player develops a deep understanding of the character's traits and motivations that in turn provide a cornerstone for strong fiction writing. In my RPG-themed classes, students create their own fictional world, populating a wiki with people, places, and things, and then marking them on a Google map. The process requires collaboration and critical conversations about the kind of world and characters the student writers wish to represent. I am also interested in genre fiction and what depictions of alternate realities might tell us about our own world. As a creative writing instructor I urge students to take advantage of the fresh opportunities present in genre fiction rather than rehashing the familiar genre tropes and trappings. My fiction has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and Best Horror of the Year among other top genre fiction venues. Finally, I am active in creative writing studies scholarship, which seeks to promote new ways to think about our discipline. In addition to game-based approaches, I am interested in ways digital technology can transform the creative writing classroom. I co-edited a collection entitled Creative Writing in the Digital Age, and I am a senior editor for the newly established Journal of Creative Writing Studies.


Areas of Expertise
Digital pedagogy
Creative writing pedagogy
Game studies
Genre fiction

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
A transmedia storyworld is a shared universe in which its settings, characters, objects, events, and histories are featured in one or more narratives across many different media, including print fiction, films, television episodes, comics/ graphic novels, and games. This course will focus on the construction of large-scale transmedia storyworlds and how such storyworlds expand in size and detail over time. Students will trace narrative arcs as deployed through different media and consider the strengths and limitations of each medium in terms of adding to knowledge about the transmedia storyworld. The course will also analyze the differences and similarities between transmedia narratives, adaptation, and other forms of serial storytelling; the multi-authored nature of transmedia storyworlds; commercial aspects of transmedia storyworlds; and creative work produced by and for fan communities.
3 Credits
This course is for students who have completed a creative writing workshop and want to explore how games and rules can be used to produce unique and unpredictable narratives. Projects will include individual writing exercises, collaborative writing practice, and critiques of peer writing. Students will examine how different game mechanics produce different kinds of narratives and may be encouraged to develop their own game-based writing projects. Through the reading and discussion of other narrative media, students will learn the affordances and limitations of game-based storytelling systems.
3 Credits
This course focuses on the collaboration construction of fictional worlds. Students will learn to think critically about features of fictional worlds, such as the social, political, and economic structures that influence daily life for the characters who inhabit that world. Students will also participate in extensive character development exercises, and then write short fiction from these characters’ perspectives describing the challenges they face in these worlds. Students will critique each other’s fiction and submit revised work. Each class will include considerations of sophisticated fictional worlds in print and in other media and discuss world building features relevant to teach.
3 Credits
This course gives students the opportunity to write in different creative genres such as fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. In producing a portfolio, students will learn concrete elements of craft and techniques of improvisation to generate creative work. The course uses readings, peer feedback, workshops, and collaborative brainstorming to develop and refine texts for the printed page and beyond.

Select Scholarship

Full Length Book
Hergenrader, Trent. Collaborative Worldbuilding for Writers and Gamers. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Print.
Clark, Michael Dean, Trent Hergenrader, and Joseph Rein. Creative Writing Innovations: Breaking Boundaries in the Classroom. London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2017. Print.
Clark, Michael Dean, Trent Hergenrader, and Joseph Rein. Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy. London, England, ENG: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.
Published Game, Application or Software
Hergenrader, Trent. Collaborative Worldbuilding Deck. Game. MAGIC Spell Studios. 2018.
Journal Editor
Hergenrader, Trent, ed. Journal of Creative Writing Studies. Rochester, NY: RIT Publishing Studio, 2018. Web.
Hergenrader, Trent, ed. Journal of Creative Writing Studies. Rochester, NY: RIT Scholar Works, 2016. Web.
Invited Keynote/Presentation
Hergenrader, Trent. "Collaborative Worldbuilding for Writers and Gamers." NASAGA Annual Conference 2018. NASAGA (North American Simulation and Gaming Association). Rochester, NY. 17 Oct. 2018. Keynote Speech.
Book Chapter
Hergenrader, Trent. "Structures of Play: Literacies, Games, and Creative Writing." Exploding the Castle: : Seeking to Shape the Future of Games in Education. Ed. Stephen Slota and Michael Young. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2017. 39-65. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Genre Fiction, and Games, and Fanfiction! Oh My!: Competing Realities in Creative Writing Classrooms." Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught? esisting Lore in Creative Writing Pedagogy (10th anniversary edition). Ed. Stephanie Vanderslice and Rebecca Manery. London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2017. 135-149. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Steampunk Rochester: An Interdisciplinary, Collaborative Creative Writing Project." Creative Writing Innovations: Breaking Boundaries in the Classroom. Ed. Michael Dean Clark, Trent Hergenrader, and Joseph Rein. London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2017. 133-148. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Studying Creative Writing at Today’s College or University: What Should I Expect and What Skills Should I Bring." Studying Creative Writing Successfully. Wicken, Cambridgeshire, UK: Creative Writing Studies, 2016. 14-29. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Immersive Learning: Using Role-Playing Games to Teach Creative Writing, Literature, and History." Teacher Pioneers: Visions from the Edge of the Map. Ed. Caro Williams. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press, 2016. 54-69. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Game Spaces: Videogames as Story-Generating Systems for Fiction Writers." Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy. Ed. Michael Dean Clark, Trent Hergenrader, and Joseph Rein. London, England, ENG: Bloomsbury, 2015. 45-60. Print.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Exploring Imaginary Maps: Collaborative World Building in Fiction Writing Classes." Building Literate Connections through Videogames and Virtual Worlds. Ed. Hannah Gerber and Sandra Houston. Boston, MA: Sense, 2014. 11-28. Web.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Thief of Hearts." Mammoth Book of Diselpunk. Baltimore, MD: Running Press, 2015. 139-160. Print.
Published Conference Proceedings
Hergenrader, Trent. "When You Play the Game of Thrones… Everyone Wins!: Fanfiction and Role-Playing Games for Fiction Writers." Proceedings of the Games+Learning+Society (GLS). Ed. Constance Steinkuhler. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC press, 2017. Web.
Hergenrader, Trent, Steven Jacobs, and Jessica Lieberman. "Steampunk Rochester." Proceedings of the Games+Learning+Society 11.0, July 2016, Madison, WI. Ed. Kyrie Caldwell, et al. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press, 2016. Web.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Dense Worlds, Deep Characters: Role-Playing Games, World Building, and Creative Writing." Proceedings of the Games+Learning+Society. Ed. Amanda Oschner. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press, 2014. Web.
Glazer, Kip and Trent Hergenrader. "A World Filled with Darkness, Dungeons, and Dragons: Using Analog Role Playing Game Creation to Enhance Literature and Writing Instruction in High School English Classes." Proceedings of the Games+Learning+Society. Ed. Amanda Oschner. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press, 2014. Web.
Hergenrader, Trent. "The Narrative Potential of Tabletop Role-Playing Games." Proceedings of the Games+Learning+Society. Ed. Caroline Williams. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC, 2014. Web.
Invited Article/Publication
Hergenrader, Trent. "Can the Professor Come Out and Play? Establishing Critical Gaming Groups for Faculty." On the Horizon. (2016). Web.
Hergenrader, Trent. "The Place of Videogames in the Digital Humanities." On the Horizon. (2016). Web.
Hergenrader, Trent. "Making Space for Creative Writing Research in the Academy." Journal of Creative Writing Studies. (2016). Web.
Published Review
Hergenrader, Trent. "Films and Games: Interactions." Rev. of Films and Games: Interactions, eds. Eva Lenhardt and Andreas Rauscher. afterimage Jan. 2016: 422-423. Print.