Plagiarism Is Obvious, Isn’t It

When Vladimir Nabokov was asked whether he had read Franz Kafka’s The Trial before writing Invitation to a Beheading, Nabokov insisted that he had not. Having read Invitation to a Beheading, the basic premise is so similar—a man awaits execution for a crime that is never made clear—it is difficult to take his word for it. It doesn’t help that Lolita may have been intentionally or subconsciously plagiarized from a short story.

If I hadn’t … Read the rest

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Italo Calvino Good, Unpublished Guy’s Overstructured Plots Not So Good

The Italo Calvino novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler, opened me up to a completely different type of story-telling. First, the story is written in the second person point of view. You know the second person, that point of view you are warned not even to try, because it is nearly impossible to make it work, but every writer at some point tries anyway. Well, Calvino pulls it off. How?

The knock against … Read the rest

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William Gass and Characterization

I have read stories that have started off rather badly in my opinion with an extended physical description of the main character. In some cases, every new character is introduced with an extended physical description. Of course, these descriptions include a distinguishing trait, because somewhere someone said that would make the character more believable

I have found quite the opposite to be true, where the distinguishing trait more often results in a crazy character circus … Read the rest

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Art of Fiction – Style and Craft

Way back when I was more earnestly learning the craft of writing, I was reading through several different books on writing fiction. Almost immediately, I felt that I was reading the same book over and over again. It was if they were all cribbing from the same set of Cliff Notes. Show don’t tell. Give your characters a distinctive trait.

Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers was different, both philosophical and practical. … Read the rest

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The Rejected Stories That Egged Me On

While most of the rejections I ever received were of the form letter variety (“not at this time” or “does not fit our current needs”), I did get two that encouraged me to keep trying, perhaps for longer than was good for me.

Rejection #1

The first rejection was for a story that I had written and revised in my first writing workshop while I was pursuing a BA. It included an encouraging note with … Read the rest

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