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Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

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Cai Emmons, author of Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). As I mentioned on the show, the book trailer is great. Find it on YouTube

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is based on a fiction exercise created by Cai Emmons for the 2006 book Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis. I’ve edited the prompt for our show, but Cai’s own language can be found in that book. It’s called “Braiding Time.”

Cai opens the exercise with thoughts on how our pleasure in reading fiction is similar to the pleasure of snooping. We get a peek into the lives, physical spaces, and thoughts of other people. And in fiction, it’s okay - we’re allowed to be there, snooping! In fiction, we get to go even deeper than we can in actual life. We see into characters’ emotions and reactions; we have the right to understand both what is happening to them, and how they feel about it. Much of the process of knowing a character is learning how she thinks; this exercise helps us develop that understanding through how she experiences time, which, Cai explains, is an intricate braid of three strands: present, past, future.

Here’s the prompt:  Choose a character to write about, one you want to better understand. You are going to write four paragraphs about this character. First, write a paragraph in which your character is involved in some ongoing action: cooking a meal, searching for something that’s been lost, getting ready for an evening out--something like that. The prompt works best if the character is faced with some conflict or problem to deal with.

Staying with the ongoing activity, write a second paragraph in which this character considers something that is going to happen in the future. In the third paragraph, write about a past event that your character is moved to recall due to some trigger from the ongoing action he or she is engaged in. Finally, in the final paragraph, use elements of forward- and backward-looking to help your character continue with or finish the action. Try to make the transitions between times feel smooth and uninterrupted.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-Winning Author J.M. Holmes, whose debut story collection is How Are You Going to Save Yourself (Little Brown).

This week I'll offer two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were generously offered by J.M. Holmes. They are based on exercises by the author Bonni Goldberg, in her book, Room to Write, which Jeff (Holmes) recommends. 

First, an exercise for writing place: choose three different songs from different musical genres and play each, taking 5-7 mins to write a scene where this music is taking place in the background. Second, for fleshing out character: write about what the person's room looks like; what does s(he) have in the closet? 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins, whose new novel is Good Luck With That (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kristin Higgans. You wake up in a strange room in a strange bed and there’s a stranger in the room. He knows you extremely well, and seems to assume you know him also. Write about what happens next.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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American Novelist and Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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American novelist, essayist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book is Unsheltered (Harper).

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the reasons that I write. I loved Animal Dreams, her 1990 novel published by Harper Collins. After I finished that book, the voices of Kingsolver's characters would not leave me alone (in a good way). I recalled how much I love to write, and began to write a book of my own. Since that time, writing has offered solace, inspiration, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement. Reading her beautiful prose always inspires me to go to my desk. So today - sure, call it a Prompt -  I encourage you to seek out the work you love, read it again, let it wash over and inspire you. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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From the archives, an interview with Vermont Author Megan Mayhew Bergman. We discussed her first story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise  (Scribner). She has subsequently published a second: Almost Famous Women. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find a moment that you feel is lacking in your poetry or prose, and infuse it with at least two sensory elements--visual details or details of touch, taste, sound, or smell, to try to enliven that moment in your work. Then find another point in that same piece where you can somehow echo the sensory element that you added. For example, if you first added the taste of salmon, and this is something vital to your story, perhaps later a chair can be not just orange or pink, but salmon-colored. Don’t hit your reader over the head with something, but try to find ways to echo and repeat (important) images and ideas. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Christina Dalcher, whose debut novel is VOX (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christina Dalcher. She says it works to "denormalize" our expectations. Start with something universally known with an expected outcome, and do something unexpected. The best example of this, according to Christina, is Shirley Jackson’s famous story, “The Lottery.” When we hear the word lottery, we think of something won, something positive. But Jackson’s story of course turns this on its head. Christina suggests we all read “The Lottery,” or read it again, and then try the exercise of writing something that denormalizes or defies reader expectations.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Stewart O'Nan's most recent novel, City of Secrets, came out last year. In this interview from 2012, I spoke with him about his book The Odds: A Love Story

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene between either platonic friends or adversaries who find themselves falling in love. 

Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Alaskan Writer Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, published by Reagan Arthur Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider fairy tales, a genre from which Eowyn Ivey draws inspiration. This fall, CBS is airing a new show that takes classic fairy tales and turns them into present day thrillers set in New York City. Consider a tale that might be a favorite for you, and think about how this story might inform your work. Perhaps the witch in Hanzel and Gretel could help you develop your depiction of a person who works at a subway news stand. Or maybe you see a hint of the ugly duckling’s journey into adulthood when you work to recreate your childhood best friend. Reread one of these stories, and let it give you new ideas. Feel free, as you work, to recognize the cultural cliches that might by now be outdated, and change them, play around with them. Make the Beast a woman, Beauty a man. Because, why not?

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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