I really appreciate when people comment on the blog posts I put up. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of comments that are spam, though. WordPress automatically recognizes them as spam and puts them into separate location for me to moderate and delete. Until now, I’ve just been selecting all and deleting. But some of them are so bad and poorly written that’s it’s almost funny. So, now I’ve pulled my favorites from over the last few weeks and have compiled them here for you. Enjoy! (I haven’t edited out the grammar errors nor fixed any misspellings. Those are what give these comments their zest!) Continue reading
On Tuesday, I wrote the post, 100 Most Beautiful Words, and tried to make the case that although words are wonderful, sentences are what’s important. That night, I sat down with Douglas Bauer’s The Stuff of Fiction and read the chapter devoted entirely to the sentence. Some things Bauer said stood out for me and I wanted to share them with you. First, Bauer says that “…sentences do the most utilitarian of work: they carry the story from our imagination to the reader. They are the pack mules of literature. They are principally and finally beasts of burden.” He goes on to say that “if we understand that sentences are our tools of utility, and I think we must, we can still get real exhilaration, and I think we should, from the breadth and the capacity of their utility.” He goes on to give examples how a writer can “shape and modulate sentences” so that they convey the story with clarity and impact.
Hat tip to Flavorwire for shining a light on this piece of advice published on Letters of Note. It’s from F. Scott Fitzgerald to the aspiring writer at the time, Frances Turnbull, who sent him a story for comment while she was a student at Radcliffe. (The Turnbulls owned a summer house called La Paix, which Fitzgerald rented in 1932-1933 and where he wrote portions of “Tender Is the Night.”) Continue reading
This isn’t my list. But a friend passed it along and I thought it was interesting. It’s one person’s collection of the 100 Most Beautiful Words. I’d have to agree that many of these words roll over the tongue in a pleasing way. Desultory. Efflorescence. Lissome. I love words, but more than that, I love sentences. I believe that while a single word may be lovely or conversely hideous, may be firm or feeble, it’s the sentence that creates the aesthetic.
Last week, I attended the Lounge Lit author reading in Cambridge sponsored by the folks at the Boston Book Festival and the literary magazine, the Drum. The theme for the event was Transgressions. Authors read pieces that had to do with lying, cheating, breaking the law and bending the rules. During the break, audience members were given a sheet of paper with a list of transgressions and asked to mark next to those we had committed. I don’t remember all of the questions listed, but some of them were Did you ever have sex in a cab? Did you ever had sex in a moving car? Did you ever have sex in a room with other people? Did you ever steal as a child? As an adult? Did you ever pretend to sympathize with someone, while secretly thinking they deserved what they got? Questions like that. Continue reading
Here’s a tidbit from the Bookshelf Muse, which I came across this week: Emotions should lead to decisions. Angela Ackerman writes, “Always keep the story moving forward. A character agonizing over a choice will crank up the tension and heighten stakes, but too much will slow the pace. Remember too, often when emotion is involved, we make mistakes. Mistakes = great conflict!” Continue reading
A writer’s ability to evoke emotion is the one skill that separates the greats from the mediocres. I’ve been compiling advice, articles, chapters, blogs posts and more that explain how a write can evoke emotion. So far, all of the examples, tips, and devices and I’ve read explain what to do, and I wrote about this yesterday in my post “Fiction Should Evoke Emotion.” But I think where might be equally important.
The most important thing a piece of fiction can to do is evoke emotion in the reader. This is the goal of all art, isn’t it? To evoke emotion? The question is, how do the great writers do it? I’ve been digging around on this subject quite a bit lately and I have to say, I’m not finding much. It surprises me. I’d expect to see every craft book devoting entire chapters to the topic. I would expect to see entire books devoted to it.
I’m just starting to explore the idea of emotion, so expect more entries on this topic. For now, let me just share a few resources with you that may be helpful. Continue reading
Recently I discovered the wonderful writer, Steven Milhauser. I was struck immediately by the depth of his writing and his ability to paint scenes that not only ground the reader in the moment but also the characters. Here’s an example from his story story, A Room in the Attic:
[Wolf] invited me to his house, one warm April day, when all the windows stood open and you could see out past the baseball field to the railroad tracks running behind it. We left together after school, I walking beside my bike as my books jumped in the dented wire basket, Wolf strolling beside me with a nylon jacket flung over one shoulder like a guy in a shirt ad and his books clutched at his hip.
In this week’s issue of the New Yorker, I found a wonderful piece called “The Hunger Diaries,” by Mavis Gallant, the Canadian short story writer and novelist. The article is a collection of her journal entries written between March and June 1952, when she was living in Madrid. Gallant was a fledgling fiction writer in her late 20s, who quit her job as a journalist in order to travel through Europe and focus on her fiction. Continue reading