An Awareness of Technique and Structure

The Writer’s Chronicle, December 2012

image via fictionwritersreview.com

 

This issue seems to be heavily weighted toward poets – so if you’re of that persuasion, take note, because I honestly don’t know what to say these days about poetry and poets.

But under the cover of prose, a couple of articles stand out – ones writers will surely want to read carefully, maybe even cut out and add to their growing compendium of writerly advice.

The first noteworthy article, at least in my mind, is Alix Ohlin’s “‘I Am In Here’ – On Silence in Fiction”. But what is silence in fiction?  To Ohlin, this means that which goes unsaid. Let me explain:

In narrative, a writer might leave out key mentions – a death, a moment of love lost, perhaps, or a significant memory. This heightens suspense, and involves the reader by urging him/her to ask, “What happened? Why?” Too, a writer might simply pull up short at the end of a story segment, a scene, and go off on another tack, separating the two by white space. Even repetition can signify silence: A vague, but seemingly significant statement, repeated, but never resolved, can have the effect of silence.

Another significant article is “Middle Birth: The Novella as an Art Form,” by Hunter Liguore. Other than length, writes the author, there are some five ways of looking at novellas as separate from short fiction and the novel:

1 – Novellas, like some short stories, can circle back to the beginning, so that the end mirrors the initial elements of the story.

2 – This type of writing often leads to only one central moment in the protagonist’s life.

3 – Much as in point 2, the narrator (which is often the main character) is isolated, probably by point of view (my add).

4 – The story centers about a single, life altering decision, not the many of a novel.

5 – a novella can mean a singular encounter with an unusual character.

 

My advice (should I decide to offer it) would be to be aware of such techniques but don’t use them overtly. Just write as you will, and when you edit your work you might tweak things along these lines.

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