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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Memoir and Dramatizing Meaning

We all have moments from our pasts we can never forget. Memoirists tap into those moments when constructing a narrative. Dramatization allows us to find a causal chain that perhaps didn’t exist in real life. When we write memoir, we strive to document, but we also try to give some shape to experience. If we…

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Collage Approach for Narrative

The short story, “Escapes,” by Joy Williams opens with what at first glance may seem to be a series of disconnected oddities: the narrator’s memory of her father telling her about her grandfather being alive just before he died, her memory of a twenty-foot tall champagne glass atop a nightclub, her father pretending to be…

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Let’s Make a Scene

When children misbehave in public, parents often tell them, “Don’t make a scene.” What an unfortunate reprimand for any child who one day might be a writer, particularly if we’re prose writers. We spend our days making scenes on the page. I want to get down to basics in this post; I want to illustrate…

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Making the Small into Something Large

One of my favorite short stories is “Killings” by Andre Dubus. The major event of the story, the revenge killing of a man who has murdered the main character’s son, is large, but within the narrative that moves to this climax, there are smaller, quieter moments that are equally significant. One such moment occurs in…

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The Scent of Peonies: Sensory Details and Memoir

Compared to a year ago, the world seems a bit more open. With COVID positivity rates dropping and mask mandates relaxing, a certain degree of normalcy is returning to our lives. I fear, though, that too many people think this signals the end of the pandemic, but, of course, it doesn’t. There’s still too much…

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It’s Time: Prose and the Ticking Clock

Once again, we’ve reached the season for setting our clocks forward an hour and entering daylight saving time. Just like that, we jump ahead with that hour of our lives to be recovered in the autumn when we go back to standard time. This jump ahead, which brings us longer light, isn’t without its challenges.…

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Happiness in Stories

I turned sixty-five on Friday, and it was a good day. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the dwindling number of years left without a certain degree of apprehension, but for the most part I do my best to keep my focus on the here-and-now which still contains plenty that delights…

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Using a Sensory Detail to Invent a Narrative

It’s a summer Sunday here in central Ohio—temp in the low eighties, humid and mostly still, just the slightest stir of air from time to time. Such Sundays always remind me of similar days from my adolescence in tiny Sumner, Illinois—days when people could be lazy if they chose, days that could truly be days…

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