Stepan Pisakhov (1879-1960) was a story-teller and a landscape painter from the Pomorie region of Northern Russia. Pomorie is the south coast of White...moreStepan Pisakhov (1879-1960) was a story-teller and a landscape painter from the Pomorie region of Northern Russia. Pomorie is the south coast of White Sea with a capital in Archangelsk. Northen Dvina River flows across this land, passing the village of Weema (nowadays Uyemsky) where most of Malina’s stories are set.
Senya Malina is a commoner famous for his imaginative tales filled with satire mostly targeting local civil workers (byurokraty) and the Orthodox Church. Malina's tales spread not only amongst locals but also in the capital, the city of Archangel.
Senya Malina lives in Weema with his wife and a dog, yet his life is not ordinary. He can run on the water, fly home on a cloud, or cover many versts (miles) from Weema to Archangel just using one step of his stretchable giant leg. In his absurd humorous stories he encounters major opposition in the face of a local priest called Sivoldai and the bureaucrats of Archangel whom he relentlessly humors.
"Bureaucrats as a species have such weak spines they need their uniforms to prop them up. It’s always puzzled me where they found the strength to laugh at us peasants and common folk."
Stephan Pisakhov’s stories in this book are accompanied with colorful illustrations made by Dmitry Trubin, which nicely complement Senya’s stories. Pisakhov’s writing, though being a part of the Russian folklore, reminds me of Fables written by a Russian classic Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, popular stories in the same genre of magic realism known for their grotesque portrayal of Russian life and political satire.(less)
KM Weiland’s annotations of the classical masterpiece Jane Eyre are very timely. More than ever, scores of writers are getting published, and the mode...moreKM Weiland’s annotations of the classical masterpiece Jane Eyre are very timely. More than ever, scores of writers are getting published, and the modern reader is overwhelmed with the reading choice. Yet, there’s always an issue of the quality of written word, and in our era of fast publishing this issue is especially obvious.
Over the past decade KM Weiland has been blogging on writing craft. She’s released brilliant craft books on character creation, outlining and the story structure. She often quotes passages from famous books to show use or misuse of a particular technique, and this annotated version of Jane Eyre is her first systematic attempt at making a craft book where all the techniques she’s been teaching are exemplified in one masterpiece. I say systematic, because this book can be used as a study material for writing courses.
Topics KM Weiland touches here are:
- beginning and ending of the novel – hooks and the tone of writing. - character arc - three-act structure – plot points - scene structure (action and reaction, and more detailed scene mechanics) - plot progression through foreshadowing, the concept of a Lie, character arc - subplots and backstory - prose (use of symbolism, unique detail in description, subtext, sentence structure)
In her recent interview, KM Weiland mentioned that she wanted to focus on good things you can learn from this book rather than criticise Jane Eyre, which is the easiest way to alienate readers.
Personally, I think there are many elements in this novel that wouldn’t work well for modern writers. Yet, 200 years ago they were norm. For instance, St John gives Jane a poetry book, and Jane Eyre suddenly spends a page mulling over poetry and literature, – the scene is disrupted. These philosophical pauses, bits of non-fiction, were common in novels in the old times, now they’ll just distract the reader.
Another thing genre writers should be aware of is coincidences. What is the chance of a wandering orphan randomly stumbling upon a remote house in the English countryside, where three people who reside there who turning out her cousins?
Back to KM Weiland. She does mention that certain techniques such as blatant foreshadowing or prose modified to show an unusual accent may backfire. Yet these remarks are by no means criticise the Jane Eyre novel, rather they highlight the evolution writing craft has undergone in the last couple of centuries.
If you want to take your writing to the next level and find out how the modern story craft works within a context of the classical read, you’ll find this book helpful. Also, studying the basics of story-telling from craft books by KM Weiland and James Scott Bell and reading this book would go along nicely. Thank you , Katie, for another great resource!(less)