Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jim's Fiction

Check out my new site.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Taking a Break--Unless...

I began this blog the last week of October 2008. I have to admit I’d forgotten how long it’d been. For the first year plus, I posted five times a week. I lowered the frequency to three times a week in 2010. Recently, I came to two conclusions:
  1. Occasionally, I used quotes that repeated a topic; but I was able to provide a different slant on how the idea presented related to my own writing. In recent posts, my comments have been repetitive of earlier posts, only the words used were different.
  2. I’ve received little feedback from my readers. Now that repetition has sneaked into my posts, I don’t know if what I’m writing is helpful, or interesting, or simply more Internet BS.
Many of my readers have stayed with me from the beginning, and I appreciate that. But, honestly, without feedback, I feel totally isolated. So, I’m going on hiatus with this blog. I don’t know for how long. It may be a few months. It may be forever. I will be posting over at Flash Fiction Chronicles once or twice a month and occasionally on the Apollo’s Lyre blog. My Six Questions For. . . blog will continue for as long as editors agree to participate.

So, unless I get swamped with requests to continue, that’s it for QoW for now. I wish you all good writing and continued success.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Writer vs Reader and the Importance of Sharing

[This post appeared at Flash Fiction Chronicles earlier this week.]

Marshall Cook, in an online fiction class sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, suggested creating a feeling of “Not-Knowing” to draw the reader into a story.  On his blog, Randall Brown, in response to comments by Steve Almond, said “If a character knows something, the reader should know it.” Are these statements contradictory? Not really. Mr. Cook doesn’t advise not telling readers everything they need to know, nor does Mr. Brown say the reader needs to know everything up front.

Authors grab the reader’s attention by creating questions in the reader’s mind, questions that matter, questions that force the reader to continue with the story in order to find the answers. The inexperienced writer often poses the question and leaves it to the reader to figure out what happens. Many times this approach leaves the reader confused and unsatisfied. Even experienced writers leave out some important piece of information, at times. That’s not to say every story must end with a definite resolution; but that initial moment of Not-Knowing, the question posed that leads the reader to the story’s conflict, the reason why telling the story is important in the first place, should be made clear at some point.

Ethel Rohan’s story, “Reduced,” provides a good example of what I’m trying to say. In it, Ethel shows the reader a husband and wife in conflict. As the story progresses, the tension increases until the real problem is revealed. It’s at this point that Ethel shares with the reader that one piece of information that both characters know that explains the conflict created for the reader by that Not-Knowing. You can read Ethel’s story here.

In my brief experience as an editor, I find writers are good at creating the sense of Not-Knowing (although some take way too long to do so). It’s the sharing of information known by the characters that explains the “why” of a story where many authors fail.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harold Brewster, Literary Critic: a story

It took me a few tries to find a home for this story.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plot Evolves from Desire

“All plot comes from the character’s trying to get something, to achieve something, wanting, desiring, longing.” -- Robert Olen Butler in From Where You Dream.
And it’s important to let the reader in on what that is early on, IMHO.

I used to think this needed to happen very early in the story--the first paragraph for a short story, the first or second page for a novel. I’ve mellowed on that a bit. I read a flash story last week that waited until the third paragraph to show the reader what the character desired. In this case, it felt right. Still, all of my stories show the reader what the character’s after by the end of the first paragraph. I don’t want to give the reader the opportunity to decide to move on to someone else’s tale.