One of my favorite stories is Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing.” This is the story of a couple, Ann and Howard Weiss, whose son, Scotty, on the morning of his eighth birthday, steps off a curb and gets hit by a car. He falls, striking his head, but he gets up and seems to…

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Today, as I was nearing the five-mile mark of my run, a woman yelled out at me, “Step it up! Step it up!” Of course, I know this was just good-natured joshing, but on this morning, when I was feeling every bit of my almost 65 years, it was the last thing I needed to…

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When I was an only child growing up on a farm in southeastern Illinois, my closest friend was often our television set. I’d watch anything—sitcoms, westerns, game shows, talk shows, children’s shows, even a soap opera from time to time. I disappeared into whatever happened to be on, caught up sometimes by the stories, sometimes…

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On Friday, Cathy and I had some unruly bushes removed from the landscaping around our house, and yesterday we went shopping for some that we thought would be reasonable replacements. We were, in a sense, revising our landscape design. “You know,” I said to Cathy, “maybe we should have had these plants picked out so…

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Characters are interesting when they’re made up of contradictions. It’s those contradictions and the writers who recognize them that create the most memorable characters in works of fiction and nonfiction. If we give our characters’ free will—if we don’t fully know them too soon—they can take us to some interesting places that can either illuminate…

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I’ve been posting the last couple of weeks about the reflective first-person narrator who looks back upon experience from a greater and wiser perspective. Today, I’d like to talk about the first-person narrator who isn’t very wise or perceptive through most of the story. These sorts of narrators find themselves so deeply immersed in the…

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Last week, I made a post about the reflective first-person narrator’s attempt to make meaning from a past experience. I talked specifically about the art of fiction. The reflective narrator has always been essential to writers of memoir, and that’s where I’d like to put my focus now. Writers of memoir simultaneously serve as players…

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I’ve been thinking a bit about first-person narration lately, particularly the sort that uses what I’ll call a reflective narrator. In this type of first-person narration, the narrator speaks at a remove in time and space from the events being narrated. “This is not a happy story,” the narrator of Richard Ford’s “Great Falls,” tells…

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Yesterday evening, Cathy and I drove down to the lake in Fryer Park, which is located off Orders Road about a mile from our home. It was a pleasant evening—humid, but overcast and with enough of a breeze to make things comfortable. We sat awhile on a bench overlooking the lake and then decided to…

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I may have posted something like this before, but here on Father’s Day, I want to acknowledge the sons and fathers who find, or have found, the smallest moments of mercy and love in the midst of their difficult relationships.   When I was a boy, I was my father’s helper. I helped him with…

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