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Writing Great Fiction Lecture 2

Writing Great Fiction

Professor James Hynes

April 5, 2017


Building Fictional Worlds through Evocation

Try this exercise from John Gardner’s

: Write a passage describing a building, a landscape, or an object, but imagine

that you’re writing from the point of view of a parent whose child has

just died. Describe the object without mentioning the child or death. The

idea is to see if you can evoke a feeling of loss and grief in the reader

without mentioning the emotions themselves.



The house is silent, dark, still, even on this cloudless day. A sadness falls about the place, all one story of it. The small patch of lawn in front of it still holds a few scattered toys like weeds in a garden of otherwise happy memories.  No one has the will to disturb them- they might cry out. Lost and lonely, they await their fate, too. Anything that was ever born has a fate. A final moment.

Some things come into this world with broken wings and never learn to fly, but they can sing. Music once flowed from this house, the happiest on the block, but everyone knew the clock was ticking.

This house, A broad stucco face with shuttered window eyes and a tall bright red wooden mouth would smile on the cloudiest of days. Those were they days when the chorus of engine sounds or the imitations of conversations with happy endings made their way through the low slung fences and scattering of trees and in through the windows to me.

The rope swing, partnerless, ever so slightly sways in a gentle breeze, longing for company. All the birds have moved on. Nothing more to see here- for now. Maybe someday a new child will move in and start the youthful circus once again. Maybe then springtime will be permitted to plant some new happy flowers in the yard along with their enevitable plastic and metalic weeds.

Gardener wanted. Young. Happy. Carefree.

Writing Great Fiction Lecture 1

Amor Eterno  by Simon Silva

Writing Great Fiction
Professor James Hynes
March 25, 2017

Lecture 1
Starting the writing process

Without thinking too hard about it, try to recall a vivid image you may have seen recently, in real life or on television, and see if you can imagine a story to explain it. You can start with the Faulkner technique: Simply describe the image, such as a mother yelling at her child in the supermarket, then branch off from there, explaining why the mother is so exasperated or why the child is being so difficult. Then try Fitzgerald’s technique with the same image: Outline the life of the mother so far— her girlhood, her courtship, the birth of her child—and work up to the moment in the supermarket. See which approach works best for you.

My image-

Amor Eterno by Simon Silva

Amor Eterno by Simon Silva

Faulkner method-

A simple man, a weary man, an any man returns home from a long time away, is embraced by his loving family. Theirs is the life of a squid- A tangle of arms and hearts, yet only one soul-theirs. Theirs is a squid of love. One family, one love, many loving arms, searching to purchase a bit of the time they lost together. Groping for the touch of the very person that makes their lives rich, secure, meaningful, and for the man who sacrifices his time away from all this love, this is his reward. The warm and familiar embrace of the Squid of Love.
He ventures out, far away from home in search of a way to provide for his family. He lives to make sure they are taken care of. He works hard for months at a time without word from his family, who are too poor for a phone, but every week he sends his money and his love back to his family so they may have food and a place to live. This is how he sees his return, and he works hard every day to make sure that one day, this vision comes true.

Fitzgerald’s technique-

He was born in a poor town in central Mexico. His grade school education and the small community he grew up in did not afford him very many career opportunities, but his home life was rich and full of love and family. He lived in a three room house with his parents, grandparents, three brothers and four sisters. Love was everywhere, even though money was not. As he grew up he began to see the family struggles. One by one they burst his childhood innocence, and when he met Maria, he knew what he must do. He knew the sacrifices he would make for his own family in order for them to not have to worry about money or rent or security. He knew he had the one thing that would make his life, and that of his families lives better than most who lived in his village- a fearless resolve to do whatever it took to provide for his family.
This man, Juan, grew up, worked hard and listened to a few of his neighbors who knew where and how to go north and find work, how to send money home, and when to come home and enjoy the fruits of his labor, so that one day, he, too, would take the trip north and provide for his own family,. When he finally grows up and marries his childhood sweetheart, Maria, they start their family knowing the sacrifices he will make to ensure their survival. Every time Juan returns home, his family showers him with love and squeezes him tightly to release the pent up love they had saved for him. It is this rich embrace that makes his sacrifices worth it, fuels his next return north and sustain him through all the lonely trials and tribulations that await him every time.

Writing Great Fiction

There is a great lecture series I’ve found that delves into many of the most important techniques in learning to write a serious writer should learn. It is called, “Writing Great Fiction,” by professor James Hynes. I have listened to the series on Audible and have now downloaded the pdf that accompanies  the series so […]

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