What Pauses Can Do for a Narrative

Yesterday, there was work to do—there’s always work to do, something to write, something to read—but, after brunch, Cathy said, “Why don’t you just rest?” I gave her my standard answer, “I’ve got so much I need to get done.” Her response? “Sometimes, it’s okay to not do anything.” So it is in the stories we tell. There comes a time when it’s okay for our characters to rest; it’s fine for us to allow them a few moments of pause. Here, then, are three ways we can think about what we can accomplish by slowing the narrative pace. 1.         [...]

By |2018-02-19T08:25:08+00:00February 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|7 Comments

The Sound at the End: Narrative and Music

Each night before bed, Cathy turns on the dishwasher and sets the security alarm. I listen to the  whir of water, the beeps of the alarm. As we drift off to sleep, there’s the hum of traffic from the nearby highway, or the sound of our cat, Stella, jumping onto the bed. At the end of our days, I pay attention to sounds. The dishwasher is a very polite dishwasher, its whir and hum soothing. The security alarm is more brash. Its steady beeps get more frantic as it comes closer and closer to arming itself. The sound of Stella’s [...]

By |2017-11-13T07:48:49+00:00November 13th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Making Stories Matter in Creative Nonfiction

I could tell you a story, as I do in my essay, “Bastards,” about the night a young man opened the back door to our house and stepped inside while my mother was washing dishes. I could recall, fact by fact, what happened next. The relevant question for those of us who write creative nonfiction is one of why I’ve decided this is a story worth telling. It’s our nature to tell stories, and we have a number of them at our disposal. When we write, we usually choose to tell the ones that have left us mystified or unsettled [...]

By |2017-10-17T21:50:24+00:00October 9th, 2017|Blog|14 Comments

One Way to Shape a Narrative

Here we are on the other side of the Fourth of July. We’re in the heart of summer now, but I can feel its end and the coming of the crisp days of fall and then the biting winds of winter within the hot, sunny days that will still be ours for some time. Book-length narratives—whether we’re talking novels or memoirs—are like that. The end is always contained in the beginning. Think of The Great Gatsby, which opens with Gatsby longing for Daisy, with Tom Buchannan’s affair with Myrtle Wilson, with Nick Carraway’s romance with Jordan Baker. In Chapter 7, [...]

By |2017-07-10T07:12:30+00:00July 10th, 2017|Blog|12 Comments

Go Big or Go Home: Creating Plot

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting a book club in Casey, Illinois, last week, just about an hour from where we grew up. Casey has taken it upon itself to be the capital of the largest things in the world. We saw the world’s largest wind chime, the world’s largest rocking chair, the world’s largest pencil, the world’s largest golf tee, the world’s largest mailbox. We skipped the world’s largest pitchfork and the world’s largest wooden shoes because, well, you know, you can only take in so much big stuff all at once and we wanted to [...]

By |2017-03-20T07:58:48+00:00March 20th, 2017|Blog|4 Comments