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, April 1, 2017

Tar Heel Tales by H.E.C.Bryant (1909)

Copyright, 1909,

most of these stories you have seen, some you have praised, while others, newly writ, you have not been able to see on account of your unfortunate illness, but, to you, the Prince of Tar Heels, I dedicate all, in loving remembrance of fifteen years of intimate acquaintance, faithful friendship, and most delightful companionship.


These tales, concerning all sorts and conditions of people, were written by H. E. C. Bryant, better known as Red Buck. As staff correspondent of The Charlotte Observer, Mr. Bryant visited every corner of North Carolina, and in his travels over the state wrote many stories of human interest, depicting life and character as he found it. His first impulse to publish his stories in book form resulted from an appreciation of his work by the lamented Harry Myrover, a very scholarly writer of Fayetteville, who said:
“I have been struck frequently at how the predominant mental characteristic sticks out in Mr. Bryant. His sense of humor is as keen as a razor. He sees a farce while other men are looking at a funeral, and this exquisite sense of humor is liable to break out at any time—even in church. One may read after him seriously, as he reports the proceedings of a big event but toward the last the whole thing is likely to burst out in an irrepressible guffaw, at some very quaint, funny reflection or criticism, or an inadversion. All this shows out, too, from the personal side of the man, making him delightful in talk, and altogether one of the most entertaining fellows one will meet in many a day’s journey.
“I really think there is more individuality about his writings, than about those of any other writer of the state. Every page sparkles and bubbles with the humor of the man, and it is a clean, wholesome humor, there being nothing in it to wound, but everything to cheer and please.”
These words honestly spoken by Mr. Myrover encouraged Mr. Bryant. Red Buck’s dialect stories soon obtained a state wide reputation, and as Mr. J. P. Caldwell, the gifted editor of The Charlotte Observer, truly said: “His negro dialect stories are equal to those of Joel Chandler Harris—Uncle Remus.”
His friends will be delighted to know that he has collected some of the best of his stories, and that they are presented here.
In North Carolina there is no better known man than Red Buck. A letter addressed to “Red Buck, North Carolina,” would be delivered to H. E. C. Bryant, at Charlotte. Everybody in the state knows the big hearted, auburn haired Scotch-Irishman of the Mecklenburg colony, who, on leaving college went to work on The Charlotte Observer and, on account of his cardinal locks, rosy complexion and gay and game way, was dubbed “Red Buck” by the editor, Mr. Caldwell. It was an office name for a time. Then it became state property, and the name “Bryant” perished.
Red Buck has traveled all over the state of North Carolina and written human interest stories from every sand-hill and mountain cove. Many Tar Heels know him by no other name than Red Buck. In fact there is a Red Buck fad in the state, which has resulted in a Red Buck brand of whiskey, a Red Buck cigar, a Red Buck mule, a Red Buck pig, and a Red Buck rooster, although the man for whom they are named drinks not, neither does he smoke.
This book of Tar Heel tales is from Mr. Bryant’s cleverest work.
Thomas J. Pence.
Washington Press Gallery.
December, 1909.


Uncle Ben’s Last Fox Race 1
Forty Acres and a Mule 11
The Spaniel and the Cops 33
A Hound of the Old Stock 43
Minerva—The Owl 58
Uncle Derrick in Washington 68
And the Signs Failed Not 79
The Irishman’s Game Cock 97
Strange Vision of Arabella 112
A Negro and His Friend 125
Faithful Unto Death 142
“Red Buck”: Where I Came By It 153
Until Death Do Us Part 168
Uncle George and the Englishman 181
She Didn’t Like my Yellow Shoes 191
Afraid of the Frowsy Blonde 199
Jan Pier—The Shoeshine 206
William and Appendicitis 214


Nine Little Tar Heels Frontispiece
Uncle Ben 1
Aunt Matt 11
Tite, Riding a Democratic Ox 27
Marse Lawrence and Trouble 43
Uncle Derrick at Home 68
Preparing for the Guest 79
Arabella the Day After 112
Jim in a Peaceful Mood 125
William 214

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