Here is a born creative writing teacher generously imparting dollops of warmth, humor, and wisdom in three sections that combine to resemble no other book in this crowded genre.
“The Shapes of Fiction” is the first section, where Stern vividly demonstrates his ideas in original and artful little storylines often featuring engaging dialogues. The first three shapes “show (you) how to handle thoughts, dialogue and action—techniques you’ll use over and over.” In “Iceberg,” a writer focuses on what characters choose to express or choose to keep in mind:
Brian thought, Oh God, here it comes. My Principal. The Pig That Walks Like a Man. “Hello, sir. What a fine day.”
Eiswold nodded. “What’s that on your tie, boy? Your lunch?”
“Oh, goodness,” Brian said, “I hadn’t noticed. Thank you, sir.”
A dynamic interplay between thought and speech unfolds, and it should be noted that fulsome conveyance of thought is where fiction triumphs over film.
Other shapes include “Bear at the Door,” “Onion,” “Visitation,” “Aha!,” and “Explosion,” the last of which advises you to blow the rest of the advice to smithereens and exclusively celebrate your own brilliance. The point: these are Stern’s insights (culled from decades of teaching at tertiary level), not cumbersome rules.
In the second section, “A Cautionary Interlude,” Stern points out common pitfalls on narrative journeys. Find out how to avoid “Population Explosions,” “The Banging-Shutter Story,” “The Hobos-in-Space Story,” and more.
The final section, is a comprehensive alphabetical rendering of writing terms, some universally known, others, like ‘intrigant,’ less so. The terms are deftly cross-referenced, making it a pleasure to follow related strands.
Befriend Jerome Stern! His wisdom and generosity will enrich your writing.
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. W.W. Norton & Company, November 1991.
Reviewer bio: James Gering is a poet and short story writer from the Blue Mountains in Australia. He welcomes visitors at jamesgering.com.
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