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"Patch of Dirt:" Writing Stuff

While I'm waiting for the promotion contacts to develop, I'll be digging into my writing files to share some of the more interesting information I've collected over the years from conferences, talks with writers and class handouts I used when teaching.

NOTES FROM VCFA WRITER’S CONFERENCE NOVEL WORKSHOP, AUGUST 2010 (“The Great Gatsby” was used as the model for the workshop)

THE QUESTIONS What’s at stake? (What the reader experiences)

Why does this material matter?

What is the heart of the novel and what happens to that character?

Who has the most options to act upon? (The main character)

Which character has the more interesting through line—who do you want to stay with?

TECHNIQUES Write vertically into character.

Need ironic twist at stories end—not what reader expected.

Use concrete details. The small things that can become larger issues

A subversive detail is a detail used in an unexpected way

Each POV chosen creates a distinct experience for the reader


Example: In Gatsby what is each chapter doing for the book?

First two thirds build wall brick by brick. Last third take wall down

Material dictates shape—everything must have a casual connection.

Delay information that the reader wants. As soon as the reader wants to know something—delay giving the reader that information

An Exercise: Richard Ford: You are standing on a railroad trestle when you hear a train coming—what do you do?

References: Miller Williams poem “Let Me Tell You How To Do It From The Beginning”

Richard Yates “Paper Supplies”

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