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  1. #1
    Jonathan Odell
    Guest

    "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    I've been asked to design a three hour class for novelists on how to move their writing from the world of ideas and reflection to the physical real (utiliziing weather, flora, fauna, mineral, blood and bone, etc)

    Does anybody have a book they could recommend on making one's writing more concrete, the setting more palpable?

    Thanks

    Jon



  2. #2
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    I don't use any books on writing for my Beginning Fiction Writing class, but I do use excerpts from published works. Tony Hillerman makes great use of the real world/setting in his mysteries. Take a look at his book, Skinwalkers.

    Three hours on this single topic seems like overkill to me, unless you're planning to have the students do some writing exercises or revisions of their work. If you want some ideas on what I've done in my fiction writing classes, feel free to PM me.

    Jeanne

  3. #3
    Steven Labri
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"


    Jeanne, I am surprised you did not recommend "Reading Like a Writer," author Francine Prose. As you know, Prose provided some outstanding examples of "making one's writing more concrete, the setting more palpable". Personally, I found the examples priceless and recommend prospective writers to STUDY her examples if they wish to improve their writing. The book would be a good study tool. IMHO

  4. #4
    Mya Bell
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    It's a topic that has me a bit perplexed. I'm always encouraging writers to be less concerned about the material world. I'm not talking about fantasy novels, but regular, mainstream commercial fiction. It's so easy to forget that it's a story, a literary canvas, a way to go beyond "real life" while still tapping into archetypes that make it "feel" real.


    Having said that, if the material world is your topic, then, well, that's your topic.

    I don't know if you are planning to do lecture or workshop. Personally I think workshops are far more interesting for attendees than lectures. A little bit of pre-amble, an exercise, some discussion, a little bit of lecture, another exercise. Especially if you have three or four hours. Information is so much more meaningful if it can be applied in context.

    So ...

    What would be some good exercises for describing the material world?


    Maybe you could pass around an object (or objects) inside a box. Have people close their eyes and feel it and then, before discussing it or showing it to others, describe it in words. If the object were ambiguous, all the better. See what happens, how vividly and accurately can people describe something they haven't seen with their eyes, but only with their fingers (and perhaps their noses). Maybe, to save time, there could be two or four boxes going around the room.

    What about landscapes, furniture, buildings?

    Well, most people can describe these things fairly well, but what they neglect to do in their writing is to describe them from interesting points of view. Why not bring in some pictures of a highrise, a palace, a monument, those kinds of things and then give people this exercise. First have them describe it and then discuss the results. Now have them pretend they are someone or something else. How would you describe it DIFFERENTLY if you were a fly or a bird or a dog or a piece of paper sitting on a desk. How is one person's (or creature's) perception of reality different from another?


    Just some ideas I thought might liven it up and create some examples class members can share with one another. Most writers like to write, rather than sitting through a long lecture.

    --- Mya Bell

  5. #5
    Mya Bell
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Maybe she hasn't read it, Steven. The only book on writing I've ever read (unless you count dictionaries and style manuals) is Stephen King's On Writing and that was not that long ago and only because saw a copy in a thrift store.

    --- Mya Bell

  6. #6
    Daniel James Brown
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    I tend not to read books about writing (though I taught university level writing for many years and wrote two books about writing). But I can heartily recommend TELLING TRUE STORIES edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, published by Plume.

    It's a collection of essays on various aspects of writing about the material world by well known nonfiction writers. Even though your concern is to teach novelists, I think you'll find that many of the essays are very helpful. I've certainly found them to be well worth reading and re-reading.

    Best,
    DJB

  7. #7
    Steven Labri
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"


    You are correct Mya. Stephen King's On Writing is a great book and recommended as well. Jeanne recommended "Reading Like a Writer" in another post of mine, so that's why I mentioned it.

  8. #8
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Good point, Steven. I didn't mention books about writing because I assumed the class was a three-hour workshop--all in one day. However, I will tell you that I do hand out a list of books I recommend for fiction writers. I just don't take the class time to discuss them. (My fiction class is a 4-hour workshop, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon with a one-hour break for lunch.)

    Another good book on writing fiction is Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. The book is a compilation of his columns for Writer's Digest from the 1980s. Although it's a bit dated (references to typewriters), the technical advice is sound.

    Jeanne

  9. #9
    R. Radish
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    Are you familiar with U.K.LeGuin's "Steering the Craft"? Worth a look; very informative and stimulating, whether or not you do the exercises. Alot of public libraries have it.

    <http://www.amazon.com/Steering-Craft-Exercises-Discussions-Navigator/dp/0933377460/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-9616260-4003810?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187921574&sr=8-1>

    Steven, I thought of your "Lucas" story when I read this:
    While it is common to "conflate story with conflict," Le Guin writes, she finds that limiting. "Story is change," she says. While that change may be the result of conflict, it is just as likely to evolve from "relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, [or] parting."

  10. #10
    Randall Bateman
    Guest

    Re: "Grounding you novel in the material world"

    'Sometimes a Great Notion' by Ken Kesey is a great book set in a realistic backdrop. A fovourite of mine. On Writing is a wonderful writing tool. Stephen King always uses common themes in which to set stories and this book explains how he gets there,

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