Dear Real Writers -
I've been neck deep in editing novels for writers these past few months, but wanted to make sure to share some recent articles I've written for the spring and summer issue of JMWW, a terrific literary magazine.
Spring focused on fiction, on the key structural points for a novel (can also be used for a short story, to a degree), and summer focuses on ekphrastic poetry (with a cool exercise to try alone or with some of your fellow poets). Here's the beginning of each post with a link for further reading.
Down to the Bones
We can talk ad nauseum about elements of craft where fiction is concerned, and we will in other posts, I promise, but what's really important, is underlying structure, how a story/book is put together. If you're not making the right connections at the right time, the piece will be just a wandering mess with some key moments that the reader knows should really mean something, but kind of don't.
Here are key points and scenes to determine in your story/book. You can figure these out now, when you've just started (best way!), halfway through (nice save!), or once your book is finished (all is not lost!). Once you've read through them I'll put you to work.
What sets events in motion and leads to the FIRST MAJOR PLOT POINT. This should happen fairly quickly. Ideally within the first 5-10 pages. Definitely Act One. (I'm a fan of IN MEDIAS RES—starting your story/book in the middle of the action that changes the status quo of your characters and their world. Starts everything with a bang and also gets the inciting incident out of the way.)
An example or a reminder of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force...
To read more: http://jmww.150m.com/Stewart7.html
The Art of Ekphrastic Poetry
Ekphrasis is writing that comments on art and began as a Greek rhetorical term referring to a passage that described something in prose or poetry. Horace first connected visual and verbal art in his Epistles with the words, "ut pictura poesis" or "like a picture, poetry."
If you haven't tried this type of poem you are in for a treat. Prepare to amaze yourself. Like the persona poem (which you can use as an ekphrastic poem), this type of poem is very liberating, allowing a poet to say, feel, think, and imagine things outside of their own personal experience. We all get trapped by our stories, habits, and beliefs. Ekphrasis will help you break free of all that and hopefully keep you outside your own box.
To read more: http://jmww.150m.com/Stewart8.html
If you're local, I'm teaching an ekphrastic poetry class in the Johns Hopkins Odyssey program starting in November. Includes a museum trip for the exercise portion. Check this link in August:
Painting: Bathers Seated on the Banks of a River by Camille Pissarro