Monthly Archives: February 2011

Recent Online Reading: Short Notes about Short Stories

I loved Kris Dikeman’s Silent, Still and Cold in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It has a high fantasy sensibility mixed with zombies, which always seems like a win-win to me. Also in this month’s issue is Jesse Bullington’s The Adventures of Ernst, Who Began a Man, Became a Cyclops, and Finished A Hero. Continue reading

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Another Interminable Process Post

So I’ve finished up the writing of the first draft of a current project, which ended up about 90k words. By first draft, I mean all of the scenes are at least 75% complete, with most of them completely roughed out. The next stage of the process will follow what I did with the previous two books, which worked fine. Because I am a writer, I am fascinated with process. We all constantly wonder if we’re Getting It Right, a state which I can neither confirm nor deny. Hence this post, which anyone is welcome to skip. Continue reading

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Active Verbs

Active verbs slice to the heart of a sentence’s meaning, inject action, make prose dance with precise control. Active verbs cajole, captivate, charm, and compel. They lend the muscularity of manual labor, a scapel’s taxonomic precision, and the graceful sway and bob and glide and jump of a dance. Continue reading

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Foreshadowing and Establishing Conflict

Somehow that first moment of embarrassment, that moment of being in “the strange toilet” encapsulates so much of what that story is about and how alien the sexes can be to each other as well as how strange their container, the norms that make them up, which constitute the walls of “the can” itself, are. Look at how the center of his masculinity is framed visually: the gray zipper edge of his jeans around his pale exposed pecker. There is so much going on in that first paragraph, including sensory details like the twitch of his insides, the blare of a giggle, the pattern and threat of a zipper, that it’s worth copying out, pulling apart sentence by sentence to figure out how it’s working. Continue reading

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A Frame of Mother of Pearl

On her twenty-fifth birthday, two days after her true love’s disappearance, Hattie had her scalp tattooed with the twelve celestial houses. They marked off her head in long pie-shaped wedges, Scorpio over her left ear and Taurus over the right. When she stood still, no matter the location, she chose to stand in alignment with the sky, so the spidery black demarcations reflected the patterns of the stars Continue reading

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3 Strategies for Snaring the Senses

Go for the gut, the emotional, the upsetting. Next time something disgusts you, take long enough to get the details down, the oily sheen of rot as it dissolves underneath your touch, the way the smell of durian stuffs itself into your nostrils, the exact configuration of what lies in that toilet. And do the same with the bad and shameful in your history, the things that paralyze you. Put them on the page and you will be making a story that grabs the reader and tells them something true. Continue reading

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5 Things To Do In Your First 3 Paragraphs

Display your command of language. It’s worthwhile for a writer to think about poetry, and all its devices like assonance and alliteration, metaphor and allusion, internal rhythm, even meter. Save scraps of speech that you like, stud those paragraphs with wonderful things and spend with wild abandon from your store, because this is the make or break moment, when your reader decides whether or not to continue. You cannot lavish enough attention on your reader in the form of these paragraphs. Continue reading

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Why Titles Matter

The writer can’t afford to throw away the possibilities of the title, there’s just too much chance to set the hook in the reader there with the right cast. Make your lure beautiful, jingly with poetic principles, flashy or intricate or if you’re among the most daring, something so simple and beautiful in its form that it’s irresistible. Load it with the sensory or weight it with muscular verbs, but make it pull the reader in so your first three paragraphs can render them helpless and absorbed and yours for the story. Continue reading

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The Lonesome Trail

…in the saddlebags are memories of rain storms, winters, driving down roads slick with ice and the reflection of Christmas tree lights, down roads laden with pine shadows and the blood of unwary animals. Similes redolent of cinnamon and sweet amber, puns as prickly as hedgehogs, intricate words with Indo-European roots to be set, chiming, into sestinas. Continue reading

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Dryad’s Kiss

One night he thought he glimpsed her through the black wrought iron fence that surrounds the trees there. He spent the evening hunting her up and down its damp green aisles, listening hard and hearing only the soft hooting of the piskies or the occasional thwip of an arrow and then quick footfalls. At length he came out of the Wood and sat there on a bench by the gate. Continue reading

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