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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Stories Can Save Us

It can be easy in these days of doubtful facts, deliberate deceit, and dubious truth, to worry about the value of storytelling. Our politicians threaten narrative; our fractured world can do the same. Even when it comes to the writing of creative nonfiction—that genre that deals in facts—we may be tempted to question the value…

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Trouble Resonates: How to Use It in Fiction

Please don’t tell the folks who sign my checks at The Ohio State University, but my wife Cathy has always been a fan of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. She’s always wanted to see them in person rather than on television, and today, thanks to a game here at OSU, this was the…

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Pressure Points in Narratives

I’ve told this story before, so please excuse me for telling it again. It has so much to do with everything I want to say about pressure points in narrative. On the last night that my mother lived independently, a package addressed to her neighbor was accidentally delivered to her. My mother was a kind…

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