Help Writing Scenes That Engage the Reader (and the Writer)

In 2005, I posted an article with excerpts from Riding in Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio’s and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries by Kaylie Jones along with exercises based on their writing. I am reposting the following short excerpts along with the ideas I had aimed at helping you launch new writing of your … Continue reading

A Writer’s Role Models: Canadian Author Miriam Towes and Her 15-Year-Old Character Elfrieda

This week, I have made a video for Writing It Real’s Weekly Article. In it, I share a passage from Canadian author Miriam Toews’ novel All My Puny Sorrows in which a talented 15-year-old piano player exercises her genius against the unwelcome authoritarianism of the Mennonite elders, who “willy nilly” as the girl’s mother says, … Continue reading

Fall/Winter Writing Contest: Emma Hunter’s “God’s Breath and Bolognese”

Contest judge Stan Rubin, a master teacher, poet and friend of writing, wrote that Emma Hunter’s essay: Gracefully lives up to its rather daunting title, with wit and philosophical sweep. Concisely renders a dual vision — adult and child, the mundane and the cosmic — with natural dialogue and internal reflection, in a realistic scene. The relationships are delicately and … Continue reading

Play with 20 Scene Building Prompts

Last week, I wrote about doing a scene-writing exercise short story writer and teacher, Ron Carlson, invented. This week, I am posting 20 ideas I’ve put together for practice writing scenes that will help you develop dexterity in presenting your story, fiction or nonfiction, with the kinds of phrasing and details that absorb readers. Try … Continue reading

The Physicality of Writing Scenes and Characters

As writers, we are aware of the dictum “Show, don’t tell,” but sometimes what we think of as showing turns out to be only another way of telling and avoiding showing. On this subject, I often quote fiction writer Ron Carlson’s words in his book, Ron Carlson Writes a Story: Outer story, the physical world, is … Continue reading

The Work of an Opening — To Achieve an Engaging, Smooth and Useful Beginning

Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s story is our third place winner in the spring/summer 2013 Writing It Real writing contest. Guest judge Terry Persun wrote to us that he chose the story because he liked the pacing and grew “to know the characters, all the while not knowing which to trust or which he liked better.” He also … Continue reading

Look, Listen, Touch, Smell, Taste: 7 More Ideas for Your Writer’s Journal

There is a pleasure in the thought that the particular tone of my mind at this moment may be new in the universe; that the emotions of this hour may be peculiar and unexampled in the whole of eternity of moral being. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, April 17, 1827, Charleston, South Carolina How can you … Continue reading

Excerpt from Meg Files Novel The Third Law of Motion

This excerpt is from Chapter 15 of The Third Law of Motion by Meg Files, published by Anaphora Literary Press, 2011, reprinted here by permission of the author. Lonnie had already started work as an inventory clerk in a new discount store just outside town, and we’d used the Christmas money from Dad for rent and … Continue reading

The Third Law of Motion – An Interview with Meg Files

This week’s interview is with my colleague Meg Files about her process for writing The Third Law of Motion, her newest novel and the book’s impact on its audience. You can study with Meg at our April Writing It Real conference in Nashville or our June Centrum Creative weekend intensive in Port Townsend, WA. Sheila Your … Continue reading

Images Are What Pop for Readers, Not Telling: Exercises to Increase Your Expertise

Most of us find it hard sometimes to believe that the specifics of what we see, taste, touch, smell and hear relate our inner perceptions and feelings (or those of our characters) without explanation. We may be writing with specifics and then, without realizing it, begin to explain and annotate, argue and attempt to persuade … Continue reading