Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing the Whole Story - Ten Pages of Fiction

Yes, it is the longest single assignment for the course.  But that's okay.  During the course of the semester, you've each written a variety of stories and poems and essays.  And this will serve you well.  You've picked up several important skills in writing style and content.  Whether you choose to expand a piece you've already submitted or instead decide to start from scratch, you have the tools to write a good story.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Radical Revision - Expanding Your Fiction

Radical Revision is one of the quickest ways to jump-start a story which may be hard to write.  One reason we assign this exercise is because it encourages you to view your work from multiple angles, and this in turn will give you more ways to approach writing in the future.  I've adapted this exercise to help overcome a common issue that writers face: insufficient detail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Writing the Symbol Sketch - Allegory, Fable, and Post-Modernism

Writing a fiction piece with symbols can be a unique challenge.  It forces us to bring together the kind of symbolic imagery expected from poetry with the focus on character demanded by fiction.  The strength of this comes in the ability to convey a lesson to your audience through allegory or even the post-modern fable - the trick is to avoid the trap of coming on so strong that the reader feels manipulated...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Use Specific Details in Your Writing

As you write - particularly as you approach the Symbol section of Introduction to Fiction and Poetry, the details in your piece will play a key role in holding the reader's interest.  You can follow the link to Learn More about using Specificity of Detail to Enhance the Tone and Interest in Your Stories.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Writing Sonnets with Meter, Rhythm, and Proper Form

Sonnets, as short as they are, sometimes strike fear into the hearts of poets.  For those unaccustomed to the challenges of writing in meter, they take a bit more work - you find yourself counting syllables and checking stress with nearly every word.  Added to this is the requirement to fit the end rhyme into one of the standard sonnet forms.  Yet because of these challenges, sonnets are also an incredibly useful teaching tool - they help develop an awareness of the interplay between meter and the perceived rhythm of your words.  This exercise will help you develop confidence in building lines which use meter and rhyme together. (see also my post "Sonnets: Poems of Love and Ideas")

Sonnets: Poems of Love and Ideas

Sonnets are one of the most popular and yet most challenging of poetic forms.  As a closed form, sonnets follow very stringent guidelines regarding meter, rhyme, and stanza structure.  Yet the real strength of the sonnet forms lies in these guidelines - these short poems are packed with rhythm, and the author can use very slight changes in the form to indicate subtle shades of meaning.  (see also some Exercises in Sonnet Writing).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Writing the Idea Poem

The Idea Poem

As we discussed in class today, the idea poem has two major considerations for the writer.  The first is that the idea poem - as a poem - has a poetic advantage in regards to philosophical argument.  Unlike expository essays or journalistic reports, the idea poem can present indelible images which the reader may find more convincing than mere facts and figures.  The second consideration is the corollary to the first - the poem must provide a cogent argument.  The idea poem is centered less around situation or character and more around conveying an intellectual idea to the reader.  This second consideration leads to a major potential weakness for the idea poem as an art - if the reader doesn't believe the poem's argument, the reader may not accept the poem...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Writing the Setting Fiction Sketch

Setting.  It's the easiest aspect of fiction to identify.  The author describes a landscape or an object, and it's setting.  Deciding the importance of that setting to the story is somewhat more complicated, but it's an important consideration as you write your own fiction.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing Tone

A friend of mine e-mailed today asking about how to teach tone to her students.  And this is a very important question for any writer.  In your stories, physical descriptions, actions, and character details will carry the reader only so far.  Besides understanding and "seeing" the story, the reader needs to feel the story.  This is where tone comes in.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing the Voice Sketch

In my experience, one of the most difficult parts of writing a voice piece is finding a way to capture a unique voice without exaggerating that voice to the point of disbelief.  And the two pieces we read for class cut a very fine line here, managing to capture some of the extremes of local dialects without inflicting a cliche.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Links to Literary Terms

I had a very good question today about how to know which terms to identify.  Given the snow, we haven't gone over as many of the literary terms and techniques as I would have liked, so I've included a list here of useful websites for literary terms.  As the semester progresses, I will focus in on the literary terms which I find the most important, but you may discover that additional terms are needed to describe the works from The Hopkins Review.

Hopkins Review Essay: Evaluating Poetry

The Hopkins Review essays mark an important departure in the course from our regular focus on writing creatively.  Although the essays may require more research than the poems you've submitted thus far and a bit of a closer analysis than our in-class readings, they should be something to worry you.  I grade the essays on a relatively simple rubric - by following the rubric and the simple tips, you will be able to write a quality essay which reveals important aspects of both the work evaluated and poetry in general.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What is a Setting Poem?

Before I discuss the specifics of setting poems, I'd like to introduce a major concept in poetry which is often overlooked when trying to categorize poems.  Essentially, any poem has elements of every poem.  For example, in Bishop's "In the Waiting Room," it's a narrative poem, but we have the elements of a child-like voice and the setting details surrounding her narrative.  In Larkin's "Church Going," we have a similar effect, but it's a setting poem because the narrative is somewhat less important, but we still have some elements of narrative along with the voice of a man who's detached from religion and church in general.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is a Voice Poem?

At its heart, a voice poem is about this nebulous term we know as "voice."  The easiest way I've found to think of this is to imagine the voices of people I've met and picking apart the interesting differences that come out.  Unfortunately, this can be harder than it sounds - most of the people we know and hang out with speak the same way we do.  They are interested in the same topics, and they often hold the same views and opinions.  And this is somewhat natural.  Just think about chemistry: we're kinda the lipids in olive oil doing our best to avoid the wrong-headed vinegar peeps in our lives.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Start Writing a Narrative Poem

Often, the hardest part of writing a poem - any poem - is starting. There's always the big question of "What do I write about?" This is then followed by "How do I write about it?"

Narrative poems, by their very nature, are somewhat harder to start than other poems. They have two strikes against them - the need for the story and the need to be poetic.

What is a Narrative Poem?

In fiction, we often use this term "narrative" to describe the way a story is told.  In poetry, we use this term to differentiate poems which have a narrative arc from those that don't.  Unlike a Setting Poem, which may simply express the beauty of a place and a moment, a narrative poem tells a story, often with a beginning, a middle, and an end (as in fiction).  The ultimate narrative poem would be the epic poem, such as The Odyssey or The Illiad.