The Sublime Art of the Unreliable Narrator

posted in: Writing Craft | 6

  We want those around us to be honest with us, to tell us the truth. Most of the time, anyway. We want them to be reliable in their narrations. But in fiction, great beauty resides within the unreliable. Author Wayne C. Booth coined the phrase “unreliable narrator” in 1961 to describe that narrative voice the writer employs with the goal of misleading us, the readers. It may not be the easiest thing to manage with success, but when it … Read More »

Corresponding with the Experts

posted in: Writing Craft | 10

As a reader, I’m willing to suspend disbelief to great extent, thereby granting license to Writer Jane to take liberties and push, even shred, the envelope in order to tell the story and entertain me. But Jane has a certain responsibility to get it right. I expect her to make at least a minimum effort to get right the facts of how things are or were, however mundane those facts may be. No matter the genre. Yet few among us … Read More »

Right Word, Wrong Year: Fun with Etymology

posted in: Writing Craft | 8

Sometimes while reading a short story or novel with an historical setting, you come across a word or phrase that causes a bit of a stumble. The reason might be obvious or not. It might be that the word or phrase is lumbering about way outside its era. Maybe it’s a novel of the American Revolution, wherein General Washington receives more bad news in frozen Valley Forge, and orders his lieutenant to Philadelphia with an urgent plea for help. So … Read More »

Get Cozy: A Chat with Novelist Nancy J. Cohen

posted in: Writing Craft | 24

My mother devoured every Agatha Christie novel ever written, and though I developed an early appreciation for Christie’s fussy little Belgian, Hercule Poirot, I didn’t become familiar with the term “cozy mystery” until many years later, but the moment I heard it, I knew it described Christie’s work to a tee. Or a tea, if you will. The cozy is the gentle workhorse of mystery fiction, a reliable subgenre with a dedicated following, and one that shows no signs of … Read More »

Being There: The Writer Takes a Vacation

posted in: Writing Life | 10

First off, the writer should never take a vacation. At least not from writing. Always be writing, even when you’re out there. Over the next few months, writers will join millions of other Americans in sojourning forth on vacation, by road, rail, wing, and sail. Sipping fruity drinks. Snapping pictures. Living it up. Take advantage; trips provide marvelous opportunities for writing because they throw the new and unexpected right in your face. Good writing lives in details, and there’s no … Read More »

Tales of the Epistolary

posted in: Writing Craft | 2

In high school, I picked up Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and was quickly smitten by the method of the storytelling, rendered through characters’ journals, letters, ship’s log entries, telegrams, and even wax cylinder recordings on that newfangled invention, the phonograph. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dracula represents a great example of the epistolary novel. Documents. It’s all about using documents to tell the story. An example is this log entry jotted by the troubled captain of the … Read More »

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