In a small group, identify three sentences from the story that exemplify more than one technique.
- Quote the sentence.
- Answer the question “What two techniques does this single sentence use?” for each of the three sentences.
- Your answer should take the form of an assertion followed by the word “because” and an explanation.
For example, “She could hear Mister Lafkowitz talking—his words spun out in a silky, unintelligible hum.”
- This sentence characterizes Mister Lafkowitz because it describes his voice. Description is a common strategy for characterization
- This sentence creates an image because images are the results of the combination of sensory language and nouns: “words” are the noun here and “unintelligible hum” is an example of auditory sensory language.
Then, as an individual, draft three sentences of fiction that each use more than one strategy/technique.
Review pages 54 and 55 of Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. Then, break the paragraph below into lines. Every line should be enjambed, with the exception of the last.
Mend the coat before you go out. Once we stood beside the shore. The chap slipped into the crowd and was lost. The rude laugh filled the empty room. Coax a young calf to drink from a bucket. Dill pickles are sour but taste fine. The third act was dull and tired the players. The pup jerked the leash as he saw a feline shape. A bowl of rice is free with chicken stew. The couch cover and hall drapes were blue. Sever the twine with a quick snip of the knife. These days a chicken leg is a rare dish. His wide grin earned many friends. The brown house was on fire to the attic. That guy is the writer of a few banned books. The horn of the car woke the sleeping cop. Her purse was full of useless trash. Kick the ball straight and follow through. The dark pot hung in the front closet. A shower of dirt fell from the hot pipes. Screw the round cap on as tight as needed. He lent his coat to the tall gaunt stranger. Her purse was full of useless trash. He carved a head from the round block of marble. Bottles hold four kinds of rum. Hoist the load to your left shoulder. The fruit peel was cut in thick slices. The fight will end in just six minutes. Cut the cord that binds the box tightly. Soap can wash most dirt away.
Here are a few poems for us to talk about.
How much do you need to plan a short story before you begin writing it? Consider Donald Barthelme’s essay “Not-knowing.”
We’ve been talking about autobiography and fiction in class. Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi’s Bringing the Devil to His Knees includes Margot Livesey’s essay, which is closely related to our conversation.
From David Starkey’s excellent Creative Writing, these are some strategies for starting a story.