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Tag Archives: genre fiction
In his book, How Fiction Works, James Wood claims, “…the novelist is working with at least three languages.” Hey, the guy teaches English at Harvard, so he’s probably on to something. Scholar of genre literature, M. Todd Gallowglas, suggests a … Continue reading
Things are tense these days. I hope I’m not shocking anyone by saying that. There’s a lot of negative emotions going around, and people deal with them in different ways. One of the healthier ways is to engage with a good movie, game, book, or other form of media and get lost in a story. As a person empathizes with characters, they achieve catharsis as they experience their emotional journey together with the characters they empathize with. People enjoy dramas to release their sadness, they enjoy action to feel power over a world which often shows them to be powerless. Some enjoy horror for the endorphin rush, or to release pent up negative emotions in a more healthy way than going to the hardware store and looking for a chainsaw that’s light enough to chase someone with, yet not so light that it can’t get the job done.
Um, for example.
A metaphor that I was exposed to at Clarion West (now nearly a decade ago) still works beautifully for me, and it’s one I use when teaching: the idea of the writer’s toolbox.
In my mind’s eye, it’s a big red metal tool chest, small enough to be carried around, large enough that you wouldn’t want to HAVE to carry it around all the time. Inside, drawers lift out to reveal neatly packed devices and tools, each in their own padded slot.
There’s a blade capable of lopping off awkward paragraphs, and sharper, tinier words designed for work at the sentence level, trimming beginnings till they catch a reader like a fish hook and pull them into the story. There’s a box of punctuation marks, with a special slot for the semicolons. There’s the intricate device of an unreliable narrator, calculated to wobble like a gyroscope yet still remain true to the story’s course. There’s a set of filters, each one a specific point of view, each letting you cast a section in a different light. And a layer of ornamental gadgetry: epigraphs and scraps of poetry. And a valuable gimlet, capable of drilling down to a character’s motivation: the question, “What does s/he WANT?”