Friday, March 14, 2008


An e-mail I sent out after fiction workshop today:

Hello everyone,

Thanks for a wonderful session today. First I just want to remind everybody that we will be doing Jonathan's story on Monday and also we will talk briefly about "Great Falls," the story in our text by Richard Ford.

On Wednesday and Friday, I would like all of you to present your revisions to the class. What I mean is that you would discuss what revisions you made in story 1 or 2, read parts of the story, and talk about why you made the changes that you did. You should give ME a copy of your revised story.

I sort of like discussing a story in terms of its moral implications and its moral framework. Whether you think you are expressing a moral view about the world or not, it turns out that you really are. Readers, therefore, really need grounding in the moral universe you are creating.

Personally, I think "epiphany" is in many ways another word for "transcendence." Because writing has become to an extent "secularized," this does not mean that we have ceased to use religious elements in our writing (remember that at one time, all art was in response to the sacred). When a character has an ephiphany, that character transcends boundaries, overcomes an obstacle.

As writers, we have a strange (and very contradictory) role. One the one hand, we are creatures who revel in endless possibilities and as writers we should not "judge" our characters; on the other hand, we must operate under a level of coolness and objectivity when we create characters. We do judge them, in a sense. We don't judge them as a court would or as a God might, but we do exercise control over the story by deciding what a character represents.

You don't have to make every character vulnerable or capable of salvation. With a few very short lines and carefully chosen details, you can paint a character type.

I hope at least some of this makes sense.


1 comment:

ggw07 said...

I have been thinking about this and wonder if you believe characters must change in a story. Certainly an epiphany may induce change. Or the epiphany itself could be the change in an otherwise humdrum world. But this assignment makes great sense- in terms of the essential framework and underpinnings of a story. Lucky, lucky students.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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