I’m a spare writer. I tend to write in scenes, moving the character forward through the action. But that kind of writing can go flat pretty quickly because I move too quickly past the details. Recently, I’ve come to love and admire Steven Milhauser’s writing. He has a gift for detail. In his short story, “The Room in the Attic,” I felt awe with his ability to capture the big and small of the world around his characters. Here’s just a snippet of the narrator, a high school boy, arriving at a house of one of his new friends. 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.
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.
Everyone’s heard of I.Q., or intelligence quotient, which is a score based on a test that a person can take to measure her intelligence. And then there’s E.Q., the emotional quotient, which refers to a person’s ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. There’s a test you can take for that, too. I’d like to introduce the O.Q., for observational quotient. Unfortunately, there’s no test to measure your O.Q, since I just made up the idea now. At this point, you have to self-assess. But when it comes to writing fiction, considering whether your O.Q is genius-level or remedial is a good start.