Are We Not Boyle?

  I’ve complained here before that writers shouldn’t use fiction to advance their personal causes or issues. Never say never, of course, and it took author T. C. Boyle to show how to have your agenda and tell a good story too. My writing mentor, Doris Betts, once told me that either you’re a novelist or…

What Makes The Master Writer?

  Thumbing through the latest New Yorker issue (March 28, 2016) turned up a pleasant surprise: a short story, “My Purple Scented Novel,” by Ian McEwan, probably today’s most highly regarded English novelist. Predictably for me, the story proved as satisfying as cold watermelon on a hot North Carolina summer day. Then I began to wonder: What…

The Long and Short of Story

Doris Betts, my mentor, told me one day that you’re either innately a short story writer or a novelist. She didn’t mean one couldn’t be the other; she simply meant that one’s nature leaned toward either the short story or the novel. I’ve quoted Lawrence Block below on the rigors of novel writing. I don’t necessarily…

A Funky Objective Correlative

Yesterday I promised a piece (which was an exercise at the VCFA Novel Retreat) using an objective correlative, or an object or some such about which a story is centered. The exercise was to write a complete one page story set in a rest room, the idea being that, set in a strange environ, new,…

The Bandit Little Red, by John Hoddy.

I’ve made something of a habit of buying books by self-pub authors – at least the books that interest me. One never knows what to expect from such books – an unknown gem, perhaps. Or sometimes reading one feels like needles stuck in one’s eyes. John Hoddy and I were classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy, Class…

Marriage and Loss in a Novel

This sort of thing has happened numerous times in cases of national conflict: a spouse disappears in the fog of war and is assumed dead. The spouse waiting at home finds love with another, only to be informed later that the lost one is alive. This is part of Jakob History’s conflict in our futuristic,…

A Broader Take on Story

Today’s world is ever-changing, adapting, mutating. If you see that glass half full, fine. If you see it half empty, then let’s suppose that a given new thing under your microscope hasn’t been fully fleshed out…yet. But to stay on point, what’s changed in the structure of stories, and why? I won’t cover well-trod theoretical ground,…