Exploring the art of prose



Favorite Opening: “North Of,” Marie-Helene Bertino

November 2, 2017

Favorite Opening: “North Of,” Marie-Helene Bertino There are American flags on school windows, on cars, on porch swings. It is the year I bring Bob Dylan home for Thanksgiving. We park in front of my mom’s house—my mom, who has…

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Withholding Information

October 30, 2017

Has this happened to you? You have a good idea for an ending of a short story. You figure out the plot twist that will bring together the various narrative threads. You think of that “aha” moment that will crystallize…

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October 24, 2017

Ragged; or, The Loveliest Lies of All, by Christopher Irvin Reviewed by Nick Fuller Googins For those who tire of life in the Anthropocene, with near-daily headlines reminding us of the many ways our species continues destroying vibrant swaths of…

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Same Style, Different Content

October 23, 2017

Borrowing a craft element from another writer can be a great way to kickstart a new project, or re-energize an existing one. There are many ways to do this, of course, but here we want to focus on borrowing the…

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October 19, 2017

Hidden Machinery, Margot Livesey Tin House Books, 2017 A collection of ten essays on writing by the great Margot Livesey is a book to be savored, to be read again and again. A thoughtful reader as well as writer, Livesey’s…

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Novel Structure: Two Timelines

October 18, 2017

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, the newest novel by Hannah Tinti, uses two separate timelines as its primary structure. The first timeline follows Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo after they have moved back to a fishing village north…

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Dialogue at Cross-Purposes

October 16, 2017

Dialogue is the one of tools we have for showing us who the characters are and how they relate to each other. The best dialogue includes some amount of subtext and conflict. One of the good ways to get at…

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October 12, 2017

 Crash Course, Robin Black Engine Books, 2016 This lovely collection houses a series of essays on writing and on life. Many of the short essays live in the place where writing and life intersect, and as the book progresses, you…

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Secrets in Fiction

October 9, 2017

The word “secret” comes from the Latin verb secernere; se: to set apart and cernere: to sift. The etymology of the word seems particularly appropriate for fiction: as both readers and writers, we are always sifting through a story in…

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Reflecting the Interior

September 30, 2017

Some of the great writers use little interiority. They focus, instead, on showing us how the character views the world. Through these moments—when we are looking through the character’s eyes at a room, a character, a landscape—we learn almost more…

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