Write What You Know. Well, Sort of…

posted in: Writing Craft | 2

The first lesson we typically learn as writers is to write what we know—good advice. After all, we want the reader to step easily into the story, sensing its truth and authenticity. But that idea can also stifle a writer. A woman I was coaching told me she would only be able to write about her divorce. “I really don’t want to re-live it,” she said, “but it’s all I feel qualified to write about.” First-hand experience may be a … Read More »

A Lesson from Writing Nonfiction

posted in: Writing Craft | 6

I’ve been a writer for nearly all my adult life. Chemistry texts, books on metaphor in science, the authority of science in society, human influences on global climate, how to create conditions that promote effective interdisciplinary research. Of late, I’ve been writing fiction, and I’ve found myself in different territory. Much could be said about the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction. I’m fascinated, though, by something they have in common: the role of story. In fiction, story is everything. Great … Read More »

Literary and Scary

posted in: Writing Craft | 5

The cool October embraces, and most of us—if we’re being honest—are drawn to the scary things as Halloween looms. Stories of darkness and horror whisper to us, in movies, television, graphic arts, and literature. Lovers of the literary, do not despair! Chills and frights are not all about slashers and gore. Illustrious writers from Shakespeare to Faulkner to Levin have dabbled in the macabre. It’s okay to be scared. But we don’t turn to the great authors for buckets of … Read More »

Through Different Eyes: Ray Bradbury and “The Garbage Collector”

posted in: Writing Craft | 8

Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury is best known for the novel Fahrenheit 451 and his lush prose style, but his true gift, in my view, lay in the short story. He published hundreds of them, most of exceptional quality and invention. In 1953, he published one of only a couple thousand words, titled “The Garbage Collector.” It’s a workshop on taking the commonplace and finding the greatness within. In this case, the commonplace is the title character. We never learn … Read More »

What’s in a Name?

posted in: Writing Craft | 1

How do you decide on a name for the fictional characters you write about? I thought about my own process of choosing names – it varies, and it’s complicated. I might search for a name by thumbing through an old phone book (a good reason to keep the one they throw at the end of the driveway) to find interesting combinations. I don’t use one complete directory listing (first and last name) in case that character gets into trouble and … Read More »

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 »

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