Read Like A Writer

There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers' conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers' magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves. You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Anton Chekhov's 'Heartache' than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least. When you read a story or novel the first time, just let it happen. Enjoy the journey. When you've finished, you know where the story took you, and now you can go back and reread, and this time notice how the writer reached that destination. Notice the choices he made at each chapter, each sentence, each word. (Every word is a choice.) You see now how the transitions work, how a character gets across a room. All this time you're learning. You loved the central character in the story, and now you can see how the writer presented the character and rendered her worthy of your love and attention. The first reading is creative—you collaborate with the writer in making the story. The second reading is critical.


John Dufresne, from his book, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Harbinger by Kate Chopin

Word Count: 401

Bruno did very nice work in black and white; sometimes in green and yellow and red. But he never did anything quite so clever as during that summer he spent in the hills.

The spring-time freshness had stayed, some way. And then there was the gentle Diantha, with hair the color of ripe wheat, who posed for him when he wanted. She was as beautiful as a flower, crisp with morning dew. Her violet eyes were baby-eyes – when he first came. When he went away he kissed her, and she turned red and white and trembled. As quick as thought the baby look went out of her eyes and another flashed into them.

Bruno sighed a good deal over his work that winter. The women he painted were all like mountain-flowers. The big city seemed too desolate for endurance often. He tried not to think of sweet-eyed Diantha. But there was nothing to keep him from remembering the hills; the whirr of the summer breeze through delicate-leafed maples; the bird-notes that used to break clear and sharp into the stillness when he and Diantha were together on the wooded hillside.

So when summer came again, Bruno gathered his bags, his brushes and colors and things. He whistled soft low tunes as he did so. He sang even, when he was not lost in wondering if the sunlight would fall just as it did last June, aslant the green slopes; and if – and if Diantha would quiver red and white again when he called her his sweet own Diantha, as he meant to.

Bruno had made his way through a tangle of underbrush; but before he came quite to the wood’s edge, he halted: for there about the little church that gleamed white in the sun, people were gathered – old and young. He thought Diantha might be among them, and strained his eyes to see if she were. But she was not. He did see her though – when the doors of the rustic temple swung open – like a white-robed lily now.

There was a man beside her – it mattered not who; enough that it was one who had gathered this wild flower for his own, while Bruno was dreaming. Foolish Bruno! to have been only love’s harbinger after all! He turned away. With hurried strides he descended the hill again, to wait by the big water-tank for a train to come along.

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