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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Thursday, September 1, 2016

How to Study The Best Short Stories by Blanche Colton Williams (1919)

How to Study "The Best Short Stories" 


AN ANALYSIS OF EDWARD J. O'BRIEN'S ANNUAL VOLUMES OF THE BEST §HORT STORIES OF THE YEAR PREPARED FOR THE USE OF WRITERS AND OTHER STUDENTS OF THE SHORT-STORY 


BY 

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS



Only the other day a student demanded, " Why can't I get an author to tell me every step in the development of one of his stories?" Although, as I tried to point out, such a thorough proceeding is neither desirable nor easily possible,' yet the essentially valuable part of the author's progress may be most illuminative, and it is obtainable. As one of these writers has said, the artist is not analytical beforehand and is not so, of necessity, after completing his work. But even from those who progress only, as they assert, by inspiration come clear and helpful statements concerning their starting.

Read the story before taking up the exercises.

Consult the biographical data in the Yearbooks for 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918 to study this book. 1919, 1920, 1921, and 1922 are links to more best stories for your enjoyment.

Observe to what extent the various authors have reflected the country or region in which they have lived. What conclusions do you draw?

Many of the stories conform to the laws of the "Greek Unities" Name them.

The following list is composed of the stories analyzed for the study of this book.

* I will add stories from "How to Study The Best Short Stories," as I find them.

  1. A Simple Act of Piety by Achmed Abdullah
  2. The Sacrificial Alter by Gertrude Atherton
  3. The Excursion By Edwina Stanton Babcock
  4. Cruelties by Edwina Stanton Babcock
  5. Onnie by Thomas Beer
  6. Miss Willett by Barry Benefield
  7. Supers by Frederick Booth
  8. Buster by Katharine Holland Brown
  9. Fog by Dana Burnet
  10. The Water-Hole by Maxwell Struthers Burt
  11. A Cup of Tea by Maxwell Struthers Burt
  12. Ma's Pretties by Francis Buzzell
  13. Chautonville by Will Levington Comfort
  14. Laughter by Charles Caldwell Dobie
  15. The Open Window by Charles Caldwell Dobie
  16. The Lost Phoebe by Theodore Dreiser
  17. La Derniere Mobilisation by W. A. Dwiggins
  18. The Emperor of Elamy by H. G. Dwight
  19. The Citizen by James Francis Dwyer
  20. The Gay Old Dog by Edna Ferber
  21. Blind Vision by Mary Mitchell Freedley
  22. Imagination by Gordon Hall Gerould
  23. The Knight's Move by Katharine Fullerton Gerould
  24. In Maulmain Fever-Ward by George Gilbert
  25. A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell


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