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Thanks for visiting my blog for the past four years. During that time, I’ve read and learned about the writing life, poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. I have read many books, learned a great deal, and written a couple hundred craft essays. In January of this year, I decided to write a book based on what I have learned. And so from April until a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a how-to creative writing eBook. It is called “The Art and Craft of Creative Writing.” It is based on what I have learned. To purchase the book, visit http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK
The book is more than 400 pages long and includes the following chapters chapters:
Table of Content
- About the Author 3
- Introduction. 4
- THE WRITING LIFE. 7
- The Art and Craft of Writing. 8
- The Writing Life: Journal Writing. 16
- The Writing Life: Reading Like a Writer 19
- The Writing Life: Learning to Write Creatively. 24
- The Writing Life: Finding Inspiration to Write. 29
- Ten Myths about Writing. 33
- Writer’s Block. 36
- The Writing Life: Developing Your Writing Voice. 39
- Blogging as a Form of Creative Writing. 44
- The Writing Process. 49
- Writing the Opening. 54
- Writing the Ending. 57
- Revising Your Work. 60
- WRITING FREE VERSE POETRY.. 65
- Poetry: An Overview.. 66
- Free Verse Poetry: An Overview.. 74
- The Title of a Poem.. 80
- Finding Inspiration and a Subject for Your Poem.. 83
- Writing Free Verse: Stanza, Line, Syntax. 87
- Writing Free Verse: Word Choice. 93
- Writing Free Verse: Adding Sensory Details. 96
- Writing Free Verse: Using Figurative Language. 100
- Writing Free Verse: Adding Sound Effects. 104
- Writing Free Verse: Meter and Rhythm.. 108
- Writing the Prose Poem.. 113
- Learning to Write Free Verse Poetry. 116
- WRITING SHORT FICTION.. 123
- Writing Short Fiction: An Overview.. 124
- Writing Short Fiction: Creating the Setting. 130
- Writing Short Fiction: The Plot 134
- Writing Short Fiction: Character and Characterization. 139
- Writing Short Fiction: Dialogue. 144
- Writing Short Fiction: Point of View.. 148
- Writing Short Fiction: The Theme. 152
- Writing Short Fiction: Literary Techniques and Poetic Devices. 155
- Writing Short Fiction: Voice and Writing Style. 161
- Writing Short Fiction: Beginning and Ending. 166
- How to Write a Short Story. 170
- WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION.. 176
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: An Overview.. 177
- The Ethics of Creative Nonfiction. 184
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: Using Humour in Your Writing. 189
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Narrative Essay. 194
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Opinion Essay. 202
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Meditative Essay. 209
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Lyrical Essay. 215
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Segmented Essay. 219
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literary Journalism Essay. 224
- The Literary Journalism Essay: On Popular Culture. 229
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: Narrative History. 237
- The Literary Journalism Essay: The Global Village. 243
- Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Profile/Biography Sketch. 248
For anyone who desires to embrace the writing life, write free verse poetry, write short fiction, write creative nonfiction, such as the personal essays, and more, this book is for you. It is filled with advice, tips, suggestions, how-to explanations, and more. You can buy it at Amazon for $7.00. To purchase the book, visit: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK I will not be making any more posts to this blog. It is time for another project. Good luck in your writing endeavors. Dave Hood,B.A.
Poets use various poetic devices or figures of speech to make comparisons. These figures of speech are intended to enhance understanding, to entertain, to add deeper meaning, and to enrich the quality of a poem. These figures of speech are also used by writers in other forms of creative writing, such as short fiction, novel writing, personal essay, and memoir writing.
In this post, I’ll explain how to use the poetic devices of comparison. The following will be covered:
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet uses “like” or “as” to compare one thing to some other thing. The things compared must be unlike each other. The purpose of a simile is to add meaning and understanding. A good simile also makes a poem pleasurable to read. It can turn a dull poem into something memorable. For instance, Robert Frost wrote” the attic wasps went missing by like bullets.” Here are a few other examples:
- The neighborhood is like a ghost town.
- The sick man looks like a corpse.
- You are free as a gold-fish in an aquarium.
- He writes as if possessed by a demon.
- She strolls down the beach like a model on a runway in a fashion show.
- The truck is rusty as a wreck in the scrap yard.
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet suggests the one thing is another. The poet does not use “like” or “as” to make the comparison between two different things. Often the word “is” or “of” is used to make the comparison.
A poet can create an explicit metaphor by directly suggesting that one thing is another. Example: He is a shark. She is a black widow spider. (A is B) Or the poet can make an implied metaphor by comparing one thing to another using the attributes of the object, such as adjectives or verbs associated with it. Example: He sailed down the highway in his new corvette. (Comparison to a sailboat) She cut him with her claws. (comparison to an animal)
The purpose of a an explicit or implied metaphor is to entertain the reader, to help the reader understand, to add deeper meaning to a poem.
- The running back is a tank.
- The old man is a walking corpse
- The house is a mausoleum.
- Place of grief
- Sea of death
- Dinner of gratitude
- Gift of pleasure
- Lust is a drug
- Teeth of the wind
- Mouth of a river
Poets must avoid using dead metaphors. These are metaphors that have been used so often that they’ve lost their originality and effectiveness. The comparison has taken on a new meaning of expression —and is often viewed as a cliché. Examples of dead metaphors include:
- Seeds of doubt
- Fishing for compliments
- Grasp the idea
Poets must also avoid creating mixed metaphors. A poet creates a mixed metaphor when one thing is compared to two different things in the same metaphor. A few ludicrous examples include:
- I can see the light at the end of the rainbow.
- I make my goal to shake every hand that walks in the door.
- I am bone empty.
It is a poetic device in which the poet an image to represent something other than its literal meaning or dictionary meaning. A symbol is usually a physical object used to represent some abstract idea. For instance, a rose can be a symbol of beauty. A dove can be a symbol of peace. The cross can be a symbol of Christianity, faith, Jesus. The lion is a symbol of courage. The gun is a symbol of violence.
Poets use well-established symbols in their poetry, such as darkness for ignorance or light for knowledge. Many poets also create their own symbols and then use them in a poem.
Not all images are intended to be symbolic. Sometimes a gun is just a gun, or a clock is just a clock. It is up to the reader to analyze and then identify the symbol in the poem. For instance, a poet might make reference to a ticking clock in his poem. The purpose of the clock might be to symbolize the passage of time.
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet makes reference to the “part of something” instead of its whole, and this part is used to represent the whole.
- Skates sail up the ice. (Instead of writing “The hockey player sails up the ice.”)
- The teenager purchased a “set of wheels.” (Instead of writing “The teenager purchased a car.”
- All hands on deck (Instead of writing “All sailors on deck.”)
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which one thing closely associated with another thing is used as a substitution. Frances Mayes, author of The Discovery of Poetry, states that a metonymy is ” an identifying emblem” substituted for the whole name. In other words, an associated quality or name or emblem, which is not part of the whole, is substituted.
- Crown instead of monarchy
- White House instead of President and Staff
- Habs instead of Montreal Canadians
- Leafs instead of Toronto Maple Leafs
- Broncos instead of Denver Broncos
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet assigns human characteristics or human attributes to nonhuman things, such as ideas, concepts, places, objects, animals. The purpose of personification is to add deeper meaning, to entertain, to describe.
- Death comes knocking
- Love arrives unexpectedly
- Old Man Winter
- Lady Luck
- Jack Frost
- April turns on the shower
- The maple trees stood in silence
- The walls stare back and talk nonsense
- The wind whispers through a crack
It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet makes reference to another person, event, art, history, religion, literature, mythology, or some aspect of popular culture. An allusion can also be a statement or quotation made by a famous or public person. An allusion can also be a line from a poem. Popular types of allusions in poetry are biblical allusions, literary allusions, and mythical allusions. The purpose of allusion is to provide additional meaning. For the allusion to be effective, the reader must have knowledge of what the poet is alluding to. Example: The painting reminds/ of Picasso’s Cubism..f
T.S. Eliot often used allusion in many of his poems. For instance, in The Wasteland, he includes “I remember/those are the pearls that were his eyes…,” a reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
To master the art and craft of writing poetry, you must learn the poetic devices of comparison, such as simile, metaphor, and symbol. Once you`ve learned these poetic devices, you can use them to write powerful, entertaining, memorable poems.
For more information on simile, metaphor, symbol, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, allusion, read the following:
- Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor
- The Poets Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
- The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
- Western Wind by David Mason and John Frederick Nims
- Creating Poetry by John Drury
An image is a visual picture like a snapshot or photograph. Creating visual imagery is a powerful way to compose a poem, bringing it to life, recreating an experience, communicating in ways that entertain.
Poets use imagery to compose free verse poetry. They create interesting images with description, vivid details, and by showing the reader, not telling them.
Poets also convert the abstract into something concrete, something that can be understood. This understanding evokes an emotional response in the reader.
Here’s a good example of how poet, Gary Soto, creates a powerful, compelling, entertaining poem with imagery:
Who Will Know Us? by Gary Soto
for Jaroslav Seifert
It is cold, bitter as a penny.
I’m on a train, rocking toward the cemetery
To visit the dead who now
Breathe through the grass, through me,
Through relatives who will come
And ask, Where are you?
Cold. The train with its cargo
Of icy coal, the conductor
With his loose buttons like heads of crucified saints,
His mad puncher biting zeros through tickets.
The window that looks onto its slate of old snow.
Cows. The barbed fences throat-deep in white.
Farm houses dark, one wagon
With a shivering horse.
This is my country, white with no words,
House of silence, horse that won’t budge
To cast a new shadow. Fence posts
That are the people, spotted cows the machinery
That feed Officials. I have nothing
Good to say. I love Paris
And write, “Long Live Paris!”
I love Athens and write,
“The great book is still in her lap.”
Bats have intrigued me,
The pink vein in a lilac.
I’ve longed to open an umbrella
In an English rain, smoke
And not give myself away,
Drink and call a friend across the room,
Stomp my feet at the smallest joke.
But this is my country.
I walk a lot, sleep.
I eat in my room, read in my room,
And make up women in my head —
Nostalgia, the cigarette lighter from before the war,
Beauty, tears that flow inward to feed its roots.
The train. Red coal of evil.
We are its passengers, the old and young alike.
Who will know us when we breathe through the grass?
In this article, I’ll write about how you can use imagery to write free verse poetry. First, I’ll define what imagery means, and then I’ll explain how to create poems that include imagery.
Definition of Imagery
An image is like a scene in a film. It is concrete, specific, and particular. It shows vivid details that evoke an emotional reaction. The image shows the reader. Imagery appeals to the senses: the readers sense of sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste, touch.
Imagery was born from a group of poets who called themselves the “imagists.” In 1913, poet, Ezra Pound, wrote a short manifesto, which was highly influential, for the imagist movement, a force that had a huge impact on developing modern poetry, especially the free verse poem. Pound wrote that poetry should consist of vivid “concrete images” instead of abstract ideas. He wrote: “use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.” Pound’s most famous poem was very short, and titled “In a Station of the Metro.” It reveals how powerful imagery can be.
In a Station of the Metro
by Ezra Pound
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
petals on a wet, black bough.
There are two types of images that you can create:
- The literal image. Using vivid details and concrete, specific and particular details to construct the image.
- The figurative image. Using simile, metaphor, symbolism, personification to create the image.
As well, compose a poem using sensory imagery. It is language that appeals to the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. Use language that describes how something or someone smells, how someone or something feels, how something or someone tastes, what do you see. Writing about the senses speaks to your readers emotions and to your imagination.
And, you show your reader instead of telling them.
What is the difference between showing and telling?
Telling: It rained this morning.
Showing: On this hot, humid summer day, for just a few minutes, the rain poured down unexpectedly like a morning shower in the bathroom that turns from hot to cold, making you shiver as though it was winter.
Telling the reader means to write “declarative statements”. These are composed with facts, not vivid details, not vivid descriptions.
The golden rule of poetry is to show, don’t tell. (Writing the life Poetic by Sage Cohen) The easiest way to show readers is by writing concrete, specific, particular descriptions of things, people, places, experiences, abstractions.
You can also show your readers by converting the abstract into something concrete with metaphor or simile. Both the simile and metaphor enable you to compare one thing, something abstract, with something else, something that is concrete.
Example: What is freedom? It is like throwing off the chains/ that shackle you to your past/ and running free in a field/ of sun flowers to the pristine lake/where a row boat waits/ for you to escape/ to a new life/.
When composing a poem, there are times when you’ll want to tell your readers things. Sage Cohen, the author of “Writing the Life Poetic”, suggests using the following guideline: “A good question to ask yourself every time you make a declarative statement is “What would happen if I described this instead of naming it? In other words, experiment with your creative writing.”
Use figurative language or trope to create vivid images, to surprise, to invoke a particular mood or tone, to create a pleasurable read of a poem. Figurative language makes an association with something that is different, such as comparing the abstract to the concrete or one object to another object that is different. Here are the most popular types of figurative language:
- Simile-Using like or as to compare one thing to another. Example: The house looked like a garbage dump.
- Metaphor– A direct comparison between different things. Comparing one thing to another without using like or as. Example: She is the Goddess of Eros walking the beach. His life is a party.
- Symbolism-Using a word to mean something more than its literal meaning, a word that has a connotation of something else. Examples: Cross, dove, water, fire, white, black. Some symbols are personal; the writer creates them. Other symbols are universal, understood very everyone, and so they are “archtypes.”
- Synecdoche-Using an associated quality of something to represent the whole. Example: Cleats and helmets raced up the football field, crashing, careening.
- Metonymy-Using a word or phrase to represent or stand for another word that is closely associated with it. The gun represents military aggression. The guns and grenades turned the quiet town into a war zone, corpses littering the streets.
- Personification-Assigning human attributes or qualities to things, animals, nature, anything that is not human. Example: The wind whispered……………the tree stood at attention…the sky wept….
How do you create interesting and memorable poems with imagery? First, convert an “abstract idea”, such a love, death, freedom, into a “concrete image.” How do you convert the abstract into something concrete? You do the following:
- Write vivid details. Example: The rusty gate cut his hand like a knife.
- Write concrete, specific, particular descriptions. Example: Sweating and out of breath/ tormented by the ghosts of memory/She cycled/ the yellow twenty speed bike/the one her deceased husband had given her/ up the steep gravel road/a place where they walked, shared secrets/as though she was racing in the Tour De France
- Simile. Using “like” or “as” to compare one thing to something different. Example: He composed the poem like someone who was possessed by madness.
- Metaphor. Comparing one thing to something other thing that is different, without using like or as. Examples: The used book is junk…The house is a graveyard…The car is a home…The woman is a mannequin dressed in the finest clothes that money can purchase.
- Symbolism, personification, synecdoche, metonymy. (see the previous section for details)
All good poets use the various tools in the imagery toolbox to construct free verse poetry. Imagery involves converting the abstract into something concrete. Imagery is about associations, comparing one concrete thing to another. Imagery is about using language that appeals to the readers sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. Writing in images requires that you create “word pictures” with simile, metaphor, concrete and specific and particular details. Imagery is an essential technique for writing compelling and illuminating and pleasurable free verse poetry.
To learn more about using imagery, read the following:
- The Poetry Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.
- Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet within by Kim Addonizio
- The Poet Laureate Anthology, edited and introduced by Elizabeth H. Schmidt, forward by Billy Collins
- Writing the Life Poetic: An Introduction to Read & Write Poetry by Sage Cohen
By Dave Hood
Writing a good short story requires that you craft a believable story and also a dream inside the mind of the reader. Including vivid details helps do this. Read any good short story, such as Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” and you’ll see that it includes vivid details.
Composing a poem is about sharing a meaningful event or experience, and evoking an emotional response. Read a good narrative poem, and you will see that it includes vivid details or description.
Whether you write prose or poetry, you must add vivid details or descriptions to your creative writing. Otherwise, your writing will be ordinary, non-descriptive. You’ll have written forgettable writing–writing that won’t evoke emotion, stir the spirit, touch the soul of the reader.
When you add detail to your creative writing, you are showing the reader, not telling them what is happening, what the narrator is seeing, feeling, tasting…and so forth.
Here’s a good example of how poet Mary Oliver has added detail to make her poem come alive:
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Techniques of Description
What are the techniques of description that you must use in your creative writing? There are several techniques that you can use, including:
- Sensory details– which appeals to the sense of sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste. Example: It smelt like rotting food in a garbage can…It looked as if someone had taken a baseball bat, swung it widely, trashing the place….It tasted like stale, mouldy bread.
- Concrete and specific details, not general and abstract. Example: Peter Wright, a student in grade 12, wrote a prose poem about social networking on Twitter.
- Authentic details. Your details ought to be original. A good way to start is by freewriting and learning how to think “outside of the box.” In other words, you need to learn creating thinking skills, such as changing perspective, asking why, brainstorming, seeking out alternative ways of describe something.
- Precise details, getting it “just right.” Use a dictionary and thesaurus.
- Don’t be literal. Instead use figurative devices, such as simile, metaphor, symbol, allusion, personification.
When Should You Use Vivid Descriptions?
You need to use them to write prose, such as a short story or personal essay, and to write poetry. Use vivid descriptions for the following:
- to describe the abstract in concrete terms (poetry or fiction)
- to describe the unfamiliar (poetry or fiction)
- to make the reader believe it actually happened, which helps create a dream inside the mind of the reader. (Fiction)
- To make setting, character, inciting incident, conflict, obstacles and setbacks come alive in the story. (Fiction)
- To write a scene in a narrative poem or short story. A scene in creative writing is like a scene in a film. A scene includes time and place details (setting), action, dialogue (not always), and vivid description.
- To create word-pictures in the mind of the reader (Fiction and Poetry)
What to Avoid
You should avoid using the following types of detail:
- Trite details (boring; not fresh or original)
- Clichés (Language that has been overused in speech and writing)
- Abstractions, which appeal to the intellect, not the senses. Use concrete and specific details instead. Example: Don’t say he was kind. Say” He smiled, opened the oak door, allowed me to enter the church first.
- Vague details. You must be precise and specific.
One of the most important attribute of a good piece of creative writing is that it includes vivid description, such as sensory details, concrete and specific descriptions, figurative language, like simile and metaphor.
Whether you write prose or poetry, you’ll need to include vivid descriptions in your creative writing—to make it come alive, to make your writing believable, to make your writing memorable in the mind of the reader.
By Dave Hood
Learning to write fiction requires that you not only understand the elements of fiction, such as setting, plot, character, dialogue, theme, but also the techniques of fiction (the craft of fiction) such as characterization, minimalism, epiphany, plot twist, scene, summary, showing, not telling.
In this post, I’ll discuss some of the most popular techniques that writer’s put into use in writing short stories and novels. The following will be covered:
- Showing and Telling
- Figurative Language
- Interior monologue
- Stream of consciousness
- Plot twist
Showing and telling. The writer dramatizes the story by showing and not telling. Showing the reader what happens helps to construct a believable story. A believable story assists the writer in creating a dream inside the mind of the reader. To create the dream, the reader must narrate the story by “showing” the reading what happens. The best way to show the reader is to provide concrete and specific descriptions, sensory details, and particular details. The writer also narrates the story in scenes, which include dialogue, time and place details, action, description. All scenes have a beginning, middle, and end, and are like a scene in a movie.
At times, the writer will also need to tell the reader what happens, to compress time, to add background details, to show reflection, to provide narrative commentary. The writer does this with a summary—the material in the story between scenes. A summary “tells” the reader what has happened in the story.
Flashback. It is a scene within a scene, or summary, in which the writer reveals details about the past, something that happened before the current narrative, and a way to show fictional time. For instance, it is a way to add background details about events that happened in the past. It is a way to provide background details about the protagonist. This backdrop enables the reader to understand the current story. It is effectively used in storytelling to reveal at the “right point.” The writer can use a scene or summary to write the flashback. The writer often begins by introducing the flashback with the following: I recall…I remember….
Minimalism. It is a literary writing style introduced by Ernest Hemingway, who used short sentences, short paragraphs, concrete nouns, action verbs, and vigorous prose to narrate stories. He used adjectives and adverbs sparingly. His prose were sparse. He made ever word count—each word had to provide meaning to the story; Otherwise, he omitted that word. His writing was based on his “iceberg theory”, which demands that writer’s do one thing—omit. This metaphor suggests that there is a visible iceberg—and below the surface, there is unseen depth, or subtext. Hemingway omitted every detail nonessential to the emotion he was trying to create in the story. He omitted nonessential details that would create a plodding read. He omitted backstory that could be guessed by reading the plot. By omitting detail, not sharing everything with the reader, Hemingway is able to create “subtext”, emotional tension, suggested meaning—more powerful than if he stated it in detail with words. He created significant meaning through understatement and omission—and the silences throughout the story. For more information on how to develop the minimalist style of writing, you can read Writing Like Hemingway by R. Wilson.
Figurative Language. The writer describes one thing by comparing it to something else. It is a good literary device to use to compare the abstract with something concrete, in order to be understood by the reader. Writers use various types of “figurative language” to create a dream inside the mind of the reader, add vivid details, entertain the reader, and create a memorable story. Common types a figurative language used by writer are simile, metaphor, symbolism, and personification. When the writer uses simile, he/she makes a direct comparison between two different things using “like” or “as”. When the writer uses metaphor, he/she makes an indirect comparison between two different things by suggesting that “a” is “b.” For instance, he is a robot at work. The writer uses existing symbols in literature, such as a cross, black crow, blue sky, sunset, or creates new symbols. The symbol is something that has deeper meaning, different meaning than its literal meaning. For instance, her cheeks are like red roses. When the writer uses personification, he assigns human attributes or characteristics to things or object or animals. For instance, The dog talked to me as we walked along the lonely path.
Realism. A realistic short story or novel depicts setting, inciting incident, scenes, and characters realistically, in accordance with the reality as most readers perceive it. The writer narrates a story that includes characters and events which are apparently the most ordinary and uninteresting, in order to extract from these their full value and true meaning. The writer describe human behaviour and surroundings or to represent figures and objects exactly as they act or appear in life. Realism is nothing more and nothing less than a true to life portrayal human nature and the human condition. Writer Anton Chekhov used realism in writing his short stories.
Stream of Consciousness. When using first person POV, the writer can use this literary device to reveal the disjointed or disorganized thoughts, feelings perceptions, and memories that flow in and out of the main character’s mind. It is a special mode of narration that undertakes to capture the full spectrum and the continuous flow of a character’s mental process. James Joyce used this technique in Ulysses (1922), and it was further developed by Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway (1925) and William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury (1928). The writer tries to capture a character’s unbroken flow of internal thoughts. The writer can describe the unspoken thoughts and feelings of a character without the devices of objective narration or dialogue. In “To the Lighthouse”, Virginia Woolf makes constant use of this technique, and it is established as the predominant style from the beginning. In this novel, the action occurs not in the outside world but in the thoughts and feelings of the characters as exhibited by the ongoing narrative.
Interior monologue. When using the first person or third person subjective, the writer has the ability to enter into the mind of the main character, and share what the character is thinking and feeling. When the writer puts into use interior monologue, the reader is able to uncover the character’s thoughts in sequence. The writer presents the thoughts of the character in logical progression, often by describing inner conflict, imagined dialogue, or self-analysis. Most often the writer uses interior monologue in reflection or the memories the character has. The interior monologue is like hearing the character’s internal thoughts. The writer can describe the unspoken thoughts and feelings of a character without the devices of objective narration or dialogue. In “To the Lighthouse”, Virginia Woolf makes constant use of this technique, and it is established as the predominant style from the beginning. In this novel, the action occurs not in the outside world but in the thoughts and feelings of the characters as exhibited by the ongoing narrative.
Plot Twist. Something unexpected happens in the story. It is a change in the expected outcome or expected ending of a story. When a plot twist happens near the end of a story, especially if it changes one’s view of the preceding events, it is known as a twist ending. A writer uses a plot twist to create surprise and build tension and add suspense.
Epiphany. It is a sudden revelation or insight which inspires the character, most often the protagonist, to change his views or beliefs, and his/her behaviour. It occurs in the mind of the character, and results in character change. It is caused from a particular event, experience, conflict in the story, most often revealed in a particular important scene . Epiphany is the moment of sudden revelation or insight by the character, and the epiphany must result in some action by the character. James Joyce first introduced the technique of epiphany in his collection of short stories “Dubliners.”
For more information on how to learn the craft of writing a short story, you can read “”by Janet Burroway.
What is the importance of setting in a short story? Every short story must include a setting. It provides the backdrop of the story, establishing the time, place, and context.
The writer selects a particular setting for many other reasons—as a motive, as a metaphor, to create conflict, to create a mood.
How the writer describes the passage of time is also important to the reader. The writer can use scene, summary, or flashback to show the passage of time.
In this article, I will discuss the importance of setting. I will cover following aspects of setting:
- Definition of setting
- Role of setting
- How to Write about Time
- Requirements of the Writer
Definition of a Short Story
The setting refers to the time and place and context of the story. The story takes place in a certain location, most often a single location. For instance, in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” , location is critical to the story, which takes place in the Yukon. The man is traveling through the winter snow with his dog, the temperature 50 below zero. If he doesn’t get to the camp by nightfall, he will die. Without this particular location, there would be no story.
The setting also includes the time of the story. Time is fictional, not real. Each story takes place during a specific period of time, most often a short time span, such as a conversation, hour, few hours, few days. In “Lust” by author Susan Minot, the short story takes place over several years.
Sometimes the story takes place within a particular context–social, political, economic, historical.
The writer’s must create a setting that allows the reader to suspend disbelief and read the story. To do this, the writer creates a setting that is believable, by using real or imagined names, places, concrete and specific details. The writer must also describe the setting with vivid descriptions and imagery, some imagined and others realistic.
How the writer describes the place and uses time contributes to the believability of the story.
The Role of Setting
The most important reason for setting is to create a backdrop for the story–provide the story with a particular time and place. If the writer describes the setting with vivid descriptions and imagery, the writer can create a sense of believability in the mind of the reader.
Sometimes, setting is the conflict of the story. The setting stresses the tension between the main character and the setting, usually nature. For instance, in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”, the conflict is between the man travelling on foot in weather in the cold and snow of the winter. He attempts to hike, alone, with only his dog to a camp site, where is friends wait. However, to get to the destination, he must hike through the snow, ice, and cold. He is in a race against time and frostbite. In the end, the man freezes to death. Without this winter particular setting there is no story.
Sometimes, setting can act as a metaphor of the story. For instance, in Hemingway’s “Hills with White Elephants”, the dialogue of the story reveals the metaphorical nature of the setting. The hills are a metaphor for fertility.
Sometimes, the writer describes a particular setting to create an atmosphere or mood. Read Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher “or “Tell-Tale-Heart”, and you will see how he creates a gruesome mood that adds to the tension of the story, one that reveals the main characters own emotional state. In short, a writer can create a particular mood/atmosphere to help the reader feel the psychological state of the main character.
Sometimes, the setting can act as a motive, driving the main character’s actions. In Tom Franklin’s, “Alaska”, a story about failed fantasy, the destination “Alaska” is the motive for the story that is told by the main character. He tells a tale about a planned trip to Alaska, but the trip never occurs. The writer tells us what would happen if the trip were to take place, how the men would quit their jobs, sell their cars, leave their girlfriends, and set out for Alaska to start a new life. The story begins with: “Our aim was this: Alaska.” And the story ends with: We would stop playing as if on cue and look at each other, suddenly happy, remembering Alaska, waiting for us.”
Time in a short story is fictional or an illusion. It is not real. And so the writer must create a story that makes time seem real, allowing the reader to feel the meaning of time. How can the writer do this? The writer can craft a scene, write summary, put into use the techniques of flashback or flash forward.
A summary enables the writer to talk about “blocks of time”, such as the past week, past few months, past year, or many years in the past. The summary provides background information, an overview of the story, events that happened in the past. It brings the story up to the present time. The writer can create a summary through scene, describing a scene with essential details, a scene from the past. In a summary, the writer “tells” the reader what happened.
As mentioned in the previous section, the writer can show the passage of time by describing a scene, one that dramatizes an event in the story. A typical scene includes a setting, dialogue, action, vivid details, and the passage of time. Remember, action occurs within a particular span of time. Reading a scene in a short story gives the reader a sense of the passage of time. In a scene, the writer “shows” the reader what happened.
A writer can employ the technique of the flashback to share an event, details, background information, anything that occurred in the past. The writer moves from the present scene to a past scene, and so a flashback is a scene within a scene.
The writer can describe a flashback through the main character’s memory or expressed as a summary, providing background information to the story.
Often, the writer deploys the flashback to write about something significant that happened in the character’s past, which allows the reader to understand the story in the present. The use of flashback also enables the writer to include events that happened before the opening of the story.
The Role of the Writer
All short stories require a time and place—or backdrop to the story. The setting contributes to the believability of the story. The writer must create a setting that allows the reader to suspend disbelief. The writer can employ vivid details, concrete and specific descriptions, or language that appeals to the senses of the reader. Since a short story is short, the writer must add only the essential details of setting,those that contribute to the mood, conflict, meaning, and believability of the story.
Before you can write good creative nonfiction, you must first learn the techniques. Then you need to use these techniques to craft your personal essays, memoir, journalistic essays, and so forth. In the next few posts, I will discuss the techniques that are important to writing creative nonfiction—the literature of fact. The following topics will be covered:
- Writing details and description
- Writing about place
- Revealing characters through dialogue and action
- Writing dramatic scenes, like a Hollywood film scene
- Expressing your writer’s voice
- Choosing your point of view
- Writing as a method of discovery
Writing Details and Description
Details and description are powerful technique for writing creative nonfiction. You will use them to write personal essays, travel pieces, a memoir, and other types of creative nonfiction.
Writing down the details is a two step process: First, you need to observe those details that are important. Secondly, you need write down these details in a way that is interesting to your reader.
Observing the Details of the Event or Experience
Observing the world around you is the key to writing details and descriptions. You need to observe the event, what took place. You need to observe the human element, how people react, what they said. You need to observe your own memories. Often these details are discovered after careful reflection. With each recalled detail, you will usually discover another detail. Sometimes you can recall a memory by talking with other people, friends and family who also experienced the event. Or you can read an old diary or journal. Or you can look through an old photo album or visit the place where the event took place. Afterwards, you need to be able to observe your own thoughts, feelings, an opinions.
Once you have observed the details of the event or experience, or you have remembered it, you need to make notes, so that you can retell your story. A good way of making notes is to keep a personal journal. Another way is to keep a notebook with you at all times. Some writers carry a tape recorder.
Next, you need to think about what you have seen or experienced or recalled. After careful reflection, ask yourself: What is the significance? Why is this event or experience important? Then make notes.
How to Express the Details of Your Experience
Only after observation and reflection will you be able to recreate the experience by writing details and descriptions. What do we mean by details? Details are concrete and specific pieces of information. They are sensory images—sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. You must avoid writing abstractions, which express qualities or complex ideas, and aren’t associated with a person, place, or thing. You must also avoid using generalizations, such as emphasizing general characteristics or attributes. As a creative writer, your goal is to recreate the experience or event. You can do this by adding specific details, like an artist paints a picture on the canvas. Without the details, the painter has no work of art.
Importance of Details
Writing the details of an event or experience is important for several reasons. First, as mentioned above, including the details helps you recreate the experience in the mind of the reader. Secondly, the details of your experience can reveal meaning or significance, an underlying meaning or universal truth. Thirdly, providing details of the event transform a summary or exposition into a piece of creative writing. Fourthly, adding details can provide the reader with a new insight or different perspective. Fifthly, providing details often allows you to reveal the “important points” and “theme.”
What details should you include? You don’t need to include every detail that you observed. You need to include only the relevant details. These include:
- Important or significant details about the event or experience or person.
- Details that allow your reader to visualize the people and events.
- Details that help the reader feel and think about the event or person.
Summary or exposition with few details:
We ate celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday with a sumptuous dinner.
Adding the details to recreate the experience:
We celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday by giving her a 34 inch digital TV as a gift and a chocolate birthday cake with 100 candles, and by cooking her favourite meal, a turkey dinner, with mashed potatoes, garden salad with French dressing, spicy stuffing, freshly cut and cooked carrots, with buttered corn, fresh from the farmer’s market.
The first example is a summary with few details. The second example provides concrete and specific details which help to paint a picture of the scene.
How can you go about adding details to make your experience realistic in the mind of the reader? You have four popular techniques:
- Use a simile. It is a technique that enables the reader to make a comparison between two different things by using “like” or “as.” Example: Dave is like a rock. He has no emotion, no feeling.
- Use a metaphor. It is a technique that enables the reader to make a comparison between two different things without using “like” or “as.” Example: Dave is a rock.
- Use imagery. It is language that appeals to the reader’s senses, the sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Example: The policeman entered the home. There was garbage strewn everywhere. The unwashed dishes were piled in the sink. The place smelled like a garbage dump.
- Use symbolism. It is a word that has a meaning other than its literal meaning. Example: I kept a photograph of my daughter on my desk… I collected old albums of rock ‘n roll bands… We adorned our home with modern art, such as a print by Picasso and another by Klimt.
Whether you want to write a personal essay, memoir, or literary journalistic essay, you must be able to recreate the experience or event in the mind of your reader. To help you achieve this, you will need to write concrete and specific details and use sensory images. These details must be important or significant. These details will also help you reveal to your readers the underlying story or universal truth or deeper meaning.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them to my blog.
In the next post, I will discuss the technique of writing about place.