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On Writing > Telling a Good Story

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message 1: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
This essay is in the Fiction 2009 issue of The Atlantic:

A lot of good points on telling a good story... including, but not limited to:

When I speak about a well-imagined story, I mean a good many things, but let me begin by listing a few things a well-imagined story is not. A well-imagined story is not generic. It has not been lifted off the shelf at your local literary Wal-Mart. A well-imagined story is not predictable, or at least not wholly predictable. A well-imagined story is not melodramatic; it does not rely on purely villainous villains and purely heroic heroes; it does not use formulas in place of inventiveness; it does not substitute cliché for fresh vision. A well-imagined story does not rely on coincidence or happenstance for its dramatic effects—a character named Lance, let’s say, just happens to be walking by at the very instant another character named Brandy, the unrequited love of Lance’s life, emerges from the doctor’s office with her spanking-new diaphragm. A well-imagined story does not rev up bland, everyday events with lurid, purply, overwrought language that seeks to elevate such events beyond their due. For example, a well-imagined story would not, in my view, include a sentence such as this one: “With an explosive, rocket-like thrust of his legs, Lance jumped for joy at the heartwarming vision of Brandy’s snow-white diaphragm.”


To vividly imagine and to vividly render extraordinary human events, or sequences of events, is the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer. It is also the labor we so rarely talk about, perhaps because we can think of so little to say beyond the exhortation: Do it! Be brave! Envision fictional events that aren’t borrowed from last night’s rerun of Starsky & Hutch, that aren’t copped from that best seller you read last week or that classic you almost finished back in college. "

message 2: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
great essay - thanks for the link

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