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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Monday, September 5, 2016

La Dernière Mobilisation by W.A. Dwiggins

LA DERNIÈRE MOBILISATION[4]

By W.A. DWIGGINS
From The Fabulist
On the left the road comes up the hill out of a pool of mist; on the right it loses itself in the shadow of a wood. On the farther side of the highway a hedgerow, dusty in the moonlight, spreads an irregular border of black from the wood to the fog. Behind the hedgerow slender poplar trees, evenly spaced, rule off the distance with inky lines.
A movement stirs the mist at the bottom of the hill. A monotonous rhythm grows in the silence. The mist darkens, and from it there emerges a strange shadowy column that reaches slowly up the hill, moving in silence to the sombre and muffled beating of a drum. As it draws nearer the shadow becomes two files of marching men bearing between them a long dim burden.
The leaders advance into the moonlight. Each two men are carrying between them a pole, and from pole to pole have been slung planks making a continuous platform. But that which is heaped upon the platform is hidden with muddy blankets.
The uniforms of the men—of various sorts, indicating that they are from many commands—are in shreds and spotted with stains of mould and earth; their heads are bound in cloths so that their faces are covered. The single drummer at the side of the column carries slung from his shoulder the shell of a drum. No flag flies from the staff at the column’s head, but the staff is held erect.
Slowly the head of the line advances to the shadow of the wood, touches it and is swallowed. The leaders, the bare flag-staff, the drummer disappear; but still from the shade is heard the muffled rhythm of the drum. Still the column comes out of the mist, still it climbs the hill and passes with its endless articulated burden. At last the rearmost couple disengages itself from the mist, ascends, and is swallowed by the shadow. There remain only the moonlight and the dusty hedgerow.
From the left the road runs from Belgium; to the right it crosses into France.
The dead were leaving their resting places in that lost land.


This story was analysed in "How to Study The Best Short Stories by Blanche Colton Williams (1919)."

It also appeared in "The Best Short Stories of 1915."

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