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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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Short Stories of America by Robert L. Ramsay (1921)

SHORT STORIES OF AMERICA 


THE SHORT STORY AS INTERPRETER OF AMERICA 

The sun of truth strikes each part of the earth at a little different angle; 
it is this angle which gives life and infinite variety to literature. 

HAMLIN GAHLAND, Crumbling Idols (1894) 





THE "SECOND DISCOVERY OF AMERICA" 

The most original contribution of America to the literature of the world has been, on the whole, the development of the short story. Most of our other literary achievements have had a strong tincture of foreign influence. Cooper was the American Walter Scott, Bryant the American Wordsworth, Irving the American Addison ; but Poe and his successors have been rather imitated abroad than imitators. The American short story, although something very like it was invented independently in France at about the same time, was borrowed from nowhere. It was Poe, the most genuinely original of American writers, who took the leisurely old tale, unregulated and unrestrained, that had been handed down from time immemorial, and gave it the unity, the definition, and the concentration that turned it into the modern short story. There was something distinctively American about the new form. Whether, as Bret Harte suggested, it was the universal American addiction to "swapping funny stories" that prepared the soil, or whether its our American passion for speed and mechanical perfection that created a congenial climate, certainly no other form has made so general an appeal to American readers or enlisted so many American writers eager to learn its mysteries and to discover all its possible adaptations.  


Contributors: Houghton Mifflin Company. pbl; Riverside Press (Cambridge, Mass.) pbl; Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn, 1857-1948; Catherwood, Mary Hartwell, 1847-1902; Chopin, Kate, 1851-1904; Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930; Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940; Harte, Bret, 1836-1902; Henry, O., 1862-1910; Linn, James Weber, 1876-1939; London, Jack, 1876-1916; Martin, Helen Reimensnyder, 1868-1939; Murfree, Mary Noailles, 1850-1922; Slosson, Annie Trumbull, 1838-1926; Smith, Francis Hopkinson, 1838-1915; Thompson, Maurice, 1844-1901; White, William Allen, 1868-1944; Ramsay, Robert L. (Robert Lee), 1880-1953

CONTENTS

A MAP OP THE PRINCIPAL LOCAL-COLOR REGIONS OP THE UNITED STATES Frontispiece

THE SHORT STORY AS INTERPRETER OF AMERICA 

I. THE "SECOND DISCOVERY OF AMERICA" .... 1

II. THE "LITERARY STATES" OF AMERICA 5

III. STAGES OF THE LOCAL-COLOR MOVEMENT .... 20

AMERICAN TYPES: STORIES OF THE FRONTIER 

1. THE LUCK OF ROARING CAMP

BretHarte 29

(The "Forty-Niners" of the Mountain West)

2. TAKING THE BLUE RIBBON AT THE COUNTY FAIR

Mary N. Murfree ... 42

(The Mountaineers of "Appalachia")
.3. BEN AND JUDAS . . . Maurice Thompson ... 66

(The Negroes of the Lower South)
4. AMONG THE CORN-ROWS . Hamlin Garland ... 88

(The Homesteaders of the Middle West)
6. ELLIE'S FURNISHING . . Helen R. Martin . . . 105

(The Pennsylvania Dutch)

AMERICAN TRADITIONS: STORIES OF SOCIAL HERITAGE

6. THE ARRIVAL OP A TRUE SOUTHERN LADY

Francis HopJcinson Smith . 123
(The Old Dominion)

7. ON THE WALPOLE ROAD . Mary Willcins Freeman . 136

(Old New England)

8. AT THE 'CADIAN BALL . Kate Chopin 149

(Creole Land)

9. THE PEARLS OP LORETO . Gertriide Atherton . . . 161

(California and the Old West)

AMERICAN LANDSCAPES: STORIES OF THE SPIRIT OF PLACE 

10. THE WINDIGO .... Mary Hartwett Catherwood 191

(Mackinac)

11. THE GIRL AT DUKE'S . . James Weber Linn . . . 213

(The Arid Southwest)

12. LOVE OF LIFE .... Jack London 231

(Alaska)

AMERICAN COMMUNITIES: STORIES OF COMMUNAL CONSCIOUSNESS 

13. BY THE ROD OF His WRATH William AUen White . . 257

(The Middle West)

14. THE MAKING OF A NEW YORKER

0. Henry 273

(New York City)

15. A MUNICIPAL REPORT . 0. Henry 280

(The Blue Grass)

THE REGIONALIST AT WORK

16. A LOCAL COLORIST . . Annie Trumbull Slosson . 301

THE ESSENTIALS OF SHORT-STORY WRITING: STUDY QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS 

A. CONCERNING THE PLOT 321

B. CONCERNING THE CHARACTERIZATION 330

C. CONCERNING THE SETTING 333

D. CONCERNING THE MOOD 336

E. CONCERNING THE STORY AS A WHOLE 337

READING LISTS 

A. ONE HUNDRED ADDITIONAL LOCAL-COLOR STORIES . 340

B. TWENTY-FIVE STORIES OF SOCIAL BACKGROUND . . 344

C. FIFTEEN HISTORICAL SHORT STORIES 345

D. FORTY REPRESENTATIVE PLOT OR CHARACTER STORIES 345

E. TWENTY REPRESENTATIVE STORIES OF SPECIAL TYPES 346

F. FIFTEEN STORIES OF MOOD 347

G. SOME REPRESENTATIVE MODERN ONE-ACT PLAYS . . 347




Reading lists: p. [340]-348

  1. The luck of Roaring Camp 
  2. Bret Harte -- Taking the blue ribbon at the county fair 
  3. Mary N. Murfree -- Ben and Judas 
  4. Maurice Thompson -- Among the corn-rows 
  5. Hamlin Garland -- Ellie's furnishing 
  6. Helen R. Martin -- The arrival of a true southern lady 
  7. Francis Hopkinson Smith -- On the Walpole road 
  8. Mary Wilkins Freeman -- At the 'Cadian ball 
  9. Kate Chopin -- The pearls of Loreto 
  10. Gertrude Atherton -- The windigo 
  11. Mary Hartwell Catherwood -- The girl at Duke's 
  12. James Weber Linn -- Love of life 
  13. Jack London -- By the rod of his wrath 
  14. William Allen White -- The making of a New Yorker 
  15. O. Henry -- A municipal report  
  16. O. Henry -- A local colorist 
  17. Annie Trumbull Slosson


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