Jody A. Forrester: Creative Writing 101

Creative Writing 101

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Welcome, writers! From this day forward, you are a WRITER! No longer a student, a doctor, a lawyer. Say it! “I am a writer!” Again, “I am a writer”! All right! Let’s go!

Micro-fiction, flash fiction, sudden fiction, short fiction, short-short. (“Get black on white”, Guy de Maupassant). Know your characters deepest desires. What makes them get out of bed in the morning. What do they carry in their pockets. If your readers feel that they are in safe hands, they will follow you to the moon on a camel. (“…maintain the fictive dream”, John Gardner.

Memoir. Creative nonfiction. Genre. Cliché. (“There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die”, Robertson Davies).

Scene. Exposition. (“Show, don’t tell”, Henry James). Active voice. Passive voice. (“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”, Anton Chekhov). Terse dialogue attribution. Purge adverbs. (“The adverb is not your friend”, Stephen King).

First person, second person, third person, third close, third omniscient, third objective, third multiple vision. (“The great majority of modern third-person narration is “I” narration very thinly disguised”, John Fowles). The point of view chooses you; trust your intuition. (“Choosing point of view is the most important choice you make”, Wallace Stegner).

Writing is a painful and lonely occupation. (“Writing is like pulling teeth from your penis every day”, unnamed friend of Jonathan Safron Foer). Just you and the blank page. (“When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth”, Kurt Vonnegut).

Don’t write about your family reunion unless someone ran over Aunt Tillie’s Chihuahua with a tricycle. (“Nobody wants to see the village of the happy people”, Lew Hunter). Steal from every book you read. It’s there for the taking. (“Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal”, TS Eliot).

This is how to write a short story. This is how to engage your readers. The first sentence is the most important. (“You expect far too much of a first sentence” Jamaica Kincaid). One protagonist per story. Plot proceeds from character. Follow one plot line. (“Fuck the plot”, Edna O’Brien).

Exposition, development, drama. (First thought, best thought”, Allen Ginsberg). Revise, revise, revise. (“The first draft of everything is shit”, Ernest Hemingway; “Third thought, best thought” Frank Conroy).

Best advice. (“Never throw up on an editor”, Ellen Datlow). Before you go to bed at night and first thing in the morning, make eye contact with yourself in the mirror, and repeat 10X – “I AM A WRITER!” Okay, class over. Copy the assignment on the board – due next week!

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Critical Essay = 3-5 pages, double-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman or Courier New font, 1” margins. (MLA guidelines – you’re in college now!!)

– Discuss the meaning of John Gardner’s last sentence in On Moral Fiction – “The business of civilization is to pay attention, remember what is central, remembering that we live or die by the artist’s vision, sane or cracked.”

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About the Author

Jody A. Forrester received her Bachelor of Arts, from Antioch Unoversity, Los Angeles, in 2007. She will be continuing her studies in writing and literature in the MFA program at Bennington College in Vermont. She won a honorable mention in the 2006 Open City Magazine/RRofihe Trophy for her story “Train”. She lives with her musician husband, John Schneider, and their dogs in Venice, California.

Jody Forrester