Coming Home: A Writing Prompt

I start today with these lines from Robert Frost’s narrative poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”: Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in. We know this isn’t always true. Families turn their own away all the time, and sometimes for good reason. In a…

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An Object Exercise for Prose Writers

Thanks to a friend, my wife Cathy now has a new hairstyle. It’s short and spiky just like this post is going to be. This is a writing activity for those who write memoir. Recall a time in your life when you acquired something new. Maybe it was a hairstyle, or a fashion, or maybe…

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Visual Images and the Writing of Narrative

Visual images can often suggest narratives. Such is the case with the one that opens this post, a photograph of a pair of hot pink stilettos lying the tall grass. How did they get there? Who was wearing them, or were they wearing them? Where were they going? What happened when they got there? Did…

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The Hidden Object: A Prompt for Fiction Writers

This week before Christmas, I’m thinking about how, as a child, I couldn’t resist searching for presents my mother had hidden from me. I wish I could say I was a better kid who could resist that temptation, but, alas. . . . Of course, one of two things happened whenever I found a gift…

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The Shadows They Leave Behind: Research and Narrative

Some of you may recall that my wife Cathy recently discovered the identity of her biological father. This discovery has sent her in search of information about her ancestors. Yesterday, she learned that a son of her great-great grandfather was Lockwood Lewis, a saxophonist who played with the Dixieland Jug Blowers in the 1920s and…

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Just Give It to Me: Clarity in Fiction

Without intending to, we sometimes withhold important information about the premise of our narratives in our attempts to be mysterious. The problem with such a strategy is it can lead to confusion. Readers can spend too much time trying to figure out the context of the story. As a result, their attention is kept from…

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Forgetting the Facts: Imagination and the True Story

Many of my novels are based in fact. I start with the real story, and then I invite my imagination to blend with what really happened. I create characters who had nothing to do with the factual story. I alter events, reshaping the narrative with the hope of making a memorable story. The facts give…

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Now There’s Something You Don’t See Every Day

My apologies for being late with my post this morning. Cathy and I drove back from South Carolina yesterday after attending her granddaughter’s wedding. Somewhere in North Carolina or Virginia (the miles blur for me), we were in stop-and-go traffic because of a wreck ahead of us. We were creeping along when we heard something…

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Using Relics in Narratives

Yesterday, my wife Cathy was sorting through her purse when she came upon her now-expired YMCA membership card. “I guess I don’t need this anymore,” she said. Indeed our membership cards are now relics of a before-time that no longer exists, that time when COVID had yet to arrive. During the pandemic, we bought our…

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