Exploring the art of fiction



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…

Read More


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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Interview: Julia Elliott

October 1, 2017

The Wilds comes out later this month. What was the first story you published that appears in this collection and can you tell us about its path to publication? “Jaws” was originally published in the “Politics” issue of the Mississippi…

Read More

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…

Read More


September 26, 2017

Several Short Sentences About Writing, Verlyn Klinkenborg Penguin Random House, 2012 There is much good advice in Klinkenborg’s book, and the way that it is written—in a series of sentences and passages—makes it an easy book to read. It feels…

Read More

Conflict in Dialogue

September 15, 2017

The word “conflict” is from the Latin verb confligere: con, together; and fligere, to strike. Many writers seem to be at home with the idea of togetherness: we usually create multiple characters in our fiction; we write stories with more…

Read More

Novel Structure: Multiple Points-of-View

September 13, 2017

In The Gypsy Moth Summer, Julia Fierro uses six different narrators to tell us the story of the inhabitants of a small island in New York during the summer of 1992. The novel is broken into five parts, with a…

Read More


September 13, 2017

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,…

Read More

Favorite First Sentence: THAT NIGHT, Alice McDermott

September 5, 2017

Favorite First Sentence: That Night, Alice McDermott That night when he came to claim her, he stood on the short lawn before her house, his knees bent, his fists driven into his thighs, and bellowed her name with such passion…

Read More