Trent Hergenrader Headshot

Trent Hergenrader

Associate Professor

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Office Location

Trent Hergenrader

Associate Professor

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts


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


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

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.

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
Creative writing in the 21st century is no longer bound to the printed page; it exists in many forms, across many media. This course introduces students to multi-media creative writing through generative writing techniques, specifically focusing on language as the basic building block of writing. Exercises in reading, writing, workshop, and revision will teach students techniques to manipulate language, construct narrative through non-linear approaches, and generate ideas for particular media through linguistic play. Students will learn elements of craft specific to particular forms and media. Class workshops will provide the opportunity to give and receive feedback as well as participate in collaborative creation. Students will produce creative work for digital and location-based distribution as well as for live performance, therefore highlighting the diversity of physical and virtual media where 21st-century creative writing takes place.
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 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 is for students who have completed a college level writing course creative writing workshop and want to explore in-depth a literary genre or add to their skills as a creative writer whether interested in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of genresa specific topic within creative writing. The focus will be on the creation of a significant piece of writing for a final project. In addition to planning and producing a single, sustained creative work, students will complete other exercises and assignments in order to experiment with other genresa variety of writing techniques. Through reading and discussion they will see their own writing in a larger context. Weekly Regular class critiques will provide the opportunity to give and receive helpful feedback.
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.
1 - 6 Credits
A program of study executed by an individual student with assistance and guidance by an instructor, outside a regular classroom setting. Guidelines for designing and gaining approval for an independent study are provided in College of Liberal Arts Policy I.D.

In the News

  • September 29, 2023

    a photo of trent and students holding worldbuilding artifacts

    New Center for Worldbuilding and Storytelling Creates Community and Resource Network for the Imaginative

    “Developing strengths in [worldbuilding] can help many types of professionals become better at what they do. Clearly, game designers, animators, and creative storytellers can benefit, but engineers, technologists, scientists, sociologists, and health care innovators, for example, can also because the process of envisioning and creating a world and all of its interactions can help test out ideas and inform solutions,” said Associate Professor (English) Trent Hergenrader, Ph.D., who will lead the new Center for Worldbuilding and Storytelling.

  • April 21, 2023

    Group photo outside in Spain.

    Using historic worlds to inspire creative writing

    Associate Professor Trent Hergenrader has led two study abroad trips to Portugal in the past, but this year he wanted to try something different. In January, he and 22 students traveled to Spain as part of a unique creative writing course. 

Featured Work