The Atlantic Monthly has a terrific article about what makes a good story and characterization. It’s a piece by author Tim O’Brien explaining how each time he sits in a writer’s workshop and manuscript critique the comments usually focus on verisimilitude when the real problem is a failure of imagination. O’Brien uses some excellent fiction writing examples and I highly recommend it to every writer, fiction and non-fiction.
Writer and teach Margot Case offered a brilliant workshop at he Richard Hugo House Write-O-Rama workshop entitled Ordinary People. We read excerpts from “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” by Donald Bartheleme, Sixty Stories.
I’d tried The Dead Father by Bartheleme, but found it at the wrong time and had never tried Donald Bartheleme again. What a mistake! I’m hot footing it to the book store to find more of his short stories.
Essentially, “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” is written as a series of vignettes supposedly from Robert Kennedy’s life by various people’s viewpoints. It’s similar to a collection of Flash Fiction.
The essential elements of a marketable novel author Janice MacDonald teaches in her writing course are:
- Sense of place
- Interesting characters
- Compelling dialogue (she’s English)
- Strong storyline (one with a logical pattern)
- Appropriate pacing
- Distinctive voice
- Particular point of view
- Slowly revealed secret or answer (the presentation of information)