Exploring the art of prose



The Making of a Story, Alice LaPlante
W.W. Norton, 2007

At a whopping 642 pages, LaPlante’s craft book is extremely comprehensive. Each of the fourteen chapters includes well-developed essays on elements of craft, exercises, and readings. The chapters cover plot, character, dialogue, point-of-view and more; the emphasis is on storytelling, and LaPlante discusses and uses examples from fiction and non-fiction alike. The combination of both fiction and non-fiction broadens this considerably from many craft books. This is a terrific textbook to use in a creative writing class but it’s also a good way to teach yourself the basics, no matter your level of expertise.

The exercises are helpful in underscoring the major themes of each chapter, and the readings are closely aligned as well. Each reading is followed by a series of questions to push you toward understanding how the reading is connected to the chapter. The selections are mostly classic texts, ones that we should all read if we haven’t already: “Brownies,” “Emergency,” “The Swimmer,” and “The Lady with the Little Dog,” to name a few, but LaPlante has also included some pieces that may be less familiar; for example, Ron Hansen’s “Nebraska” and Katha Politt’s “Learning to Drive.”

The book includes a glossary of terms, an extensive bibliography, a list of all the readings, and an index. It’s a great addition for everyone’s library.