We took a dip into Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners yesterday, reading the section called “The Nature and Aim of Fiction.” She spends some time reminding us that fiction is concrete:  “The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and…

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We’ve been talking quite a bit in the fiction workshop about the necessity of a story arriving at a surprising and yet inevitable end. We’ve talked about how to build multidimensional characters by paying attention to their contradictory impulses, and how to defamiliarize a character or a situation by allowing a misfit detail to arise.…

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Our conversation in the fiction workshop began yesterday with a consideration of a chapter from Charles Baxter’s excellent book, Burning Down the House. The chapter, “On Defamiliarization,” deals with how writers can sometimes know their stories too early in the writing process. A writer might, for example, decide early on that his or her story…

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There’s a moment in Tobias Wolff’s story, “An Episode in the Life of Professor Brooke,” where Brooke’s colleague, Riley, asks him to tell him the worst things he’s ever done. As I was walking upstairs to meet my MFA fiction workshop for the first time this quarter, I was thinking about how in all good…

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