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Table of Contents
1. First Sentences: Beginning in the Middle
2. Second Sentences as Different Paths
3. Ways to Begin a Story, from Robie Macauley
4. Begin a Story with a “Given” First Line, from William Kittredge
5. Free Associating from Random Sentences, from DeWitt Henry
6. Person, Place, and Song, from Ron Carlson
7. Stirring Up a Fiction Stew
8. The Newspaper Muse: Ann Landers and the National Enquirer
9. Taking Risks
10. Oh! . . . That Sort of Person
11. What Do You Know About Your Characters?
13. What Do Your Characters Want?
14. Making Heroes Flawed, from Douglas Bauer
15. Creating a Character’s Background, Place, Setting, and Milieu, from Robie Macauley
16. Put Your Characters to Work
17. The Morning After
18. He/She: Switching Gender
Perspective, Distance, and Point of View
19. First Person or Third
20. John Gardner on Psychic Distance
21. Shifts in Point of View
22. An Early Memory, Part One: The Child as Narrator
23. An Early Memory, Part Two: The Reminiscent Narrator
24. The Unreliable Narrator
25. Family Stories, Family Myths
26. Speech Flavor, or Sounding Real, from Thalia Selz
27. Telling Talk: When to Use Dialogue or Summarized Dialogue
28. Who Said That?
29. The Invisible Scene: Interspersing Dialogue with Action
30. A Verbal Dance: Not Quite a Fight
The Interior Landscape of Your Characters
31. The Interior Landscape of Vision and Obsession
32. What Mayhem or Scene Is Happening Elsewhere?
33. “I Know Just What She’ll Say”
34. Mixed Motives and Maybes
35. The Need to Know: The Solace of Imagination
36. The Inside/Outside Story
37. Five Years from Now…..
38. Dream Work
39. The Power of “Seemed” and “Probably”
40. The Skeleton
41. From Situation to Plot
42. Peter Rabbit and Adam and Eve: The Elements of Plot, from Thomas Fox Averill
43. What If? How to Develop and Finish Stories
44. There’s a Party and You’re Invited, from Margot Livesey
45. So, What Happened?
46. Flash Forward: or Little Did I Know
47. Plot Potential
48. Back Story as Narrative Summary: Who’s Coming to Stay the Night
49. The End Foretold
The Elements of Style
50. A Style of Your Own, from Rod Kessler
51. Taboos: Weak Adverbs and Adjectives
52. Word Packages Are Not Gifts
53. Practice Writing Good, Clean Prose, from Christopher Keane
A Writer’s Toolbox
54. Handling the Problems of Time and Pace, from Robie Macauley
55. The Pet Story: Exposition, from Ron Carlson
56. Bringing Abstract Ideas to Life
57. Transportation: Getting There isn’t Half the Fun—It’s Boring
58. Naming the Diner, Naming the Diet, Naming the Dog
59. Transitions: Or White Space Does Not a Transition Make
60. How to Keep a Narrative Moving Forward
61. Noises Off: The Beauty of Extraneous Sound, from Laurence Davies
62. Separating Author, Narrator, and Character, from Frederick Reiken
63. Time Travel
64. Stairs: Setting and Place
65. Titles and Keys
Invention and a Bit of Inspiration
66. Illustrations, from Margot Livesey
68. Far away Places
69. Story Swap: From Jordan Dann and the Aspen Writers’ Foundation
70. Humor: an Intact Frog
71. Sunday: Discovering Emotional Triggers
72. Kill the Dog
73. Five Different Versions: And Not One Is a Lie
74. What You Carry
75. Psycho: Creating Terror
76. One in the Hand
77. Notes and Letters
78. The Chain Story
Revision: Rewriting Is Writing
79. Opening Up Your Story
80. Gifts to Yourself
81. Show and Tell: There’s a Reason It’s Called Storytelling, from Carol-Lynn Marrazzo
82. A Little Gardening, A Little Surgery
83. Magnifying Conflict, from David Ray
84. What’s at Stake? from Ken Rivard
85. It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
86. The Double Ending: Two Points in Time
87. In-Class Revision
Sudden, Flash, Micro, Nano: Writing the Short Short Story
88. Sudden Fiction, from James Thomas
89. Write a Story Using a Small Unit of Time
90. Solving for X, from Ron Carlson
91. The Journey of the Long Sentence
92. He said/She said: But About What!
93. Rules of the Game
94. Ten to One, from Hester Kaplan
95. Make a List
96. Questions. Some Answers
97. How to . . . . . .
Learning from the Greats
99. Finding Inspiration in Other Sources—Poetry, Nonfiction, etc.
100. The Sky’s the Limit: Homage to Kafka and García Márquez, from Christopher Noël
101. Learning from the Greats
102. Borrowing Characters
103. What Keeps You Reading?
104. The Literary Scene Circa 1893, 1929, 1948, or?, from George Garrett
Notebooks, Journals, and Memory
105. Who Are You? Somebody!
106. People From the Past: Characters of the Future
107. An Image Notebook, from Melanie Rae Thon
108. Journal Keeping for Writers, from William Melvin Kelley
109. Creative Wrong Memory
110. Let Us Write Letters
A Collection of Short Short Stories
LINDA BREWER 20/20
ANTONIA CLARK Excuses I Have Already Used
BRIAN HINSHAW The Custodian
MARIETTE LIPPO Confirmation Names
MELISSA MCCRACKEN It Would’ve Been Hot
JUDITH CLAIRE MITCHELL My Mother’s Gifts
PAMELA PAINTER The New Year
GRACE PALEY Wants
BRUCE HOLLAND ROGERS How Could a Mother
ELIZABETH TALLENT No One’s a Mystery
LUISA VALENZUELA Vision Out of the Corner of One Eye
A Collection of Short Stories
CHARLES BAXTER Gryphon
RON CARLSON Some of Our Work with Monsters
RAYMOND CARVER Cathedral
SANDRA CISNEROS Eleven
MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM White Angel
DAGOBERTO GILB The Pillows
PAM HOUSTON How to Talk to a Hunter
HESTER KAPLAN WOULD YOU KNOW IT WASN’T LOVE?
BOBBIE ANN MASON Shiloh
THOMAS MCNEELY Sheep
ALICE MUNRO Five Points
ZZ Packer Brownies
RICHARD RUSSO The Whore’s Child
JENNIFER SHAFF Leave of Absence
KATE WHEELER Under the Roof
About the Contributors of Exercises