Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Write the Story @ Ferguson Library: Tuesday Class Recap for October 18

Today we workshopped two more stories. In looking at both, we found ourselves discussing the question of how to fit a complete narrative into a short space. How much time can be covered in short fiction? How can information be compressed /How do we decide what to leave in and what to cut out? 

I read Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" aloud in class. We talked what's said, what's unsaid, what happens between the characters, what we imagine their future will hold. 

For readers who aren't familiar with the subject matter, it might be helpful to know that the operation the couple discusses in this 1927 story is an abortion. It was not a rare procedure (as the man in the story points out) (and as we know because abortion has existed in every time and place in history), but it was illegal and, of course, carried risk. 

Homework this week:

-Read the next two stories for workshopping. 

-Re-read Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants." This time, notice how there is no flashback or exposition. Everything takes place in the present moment—during a 35-minute conversation. We hear dialogue. We get visual description of what's there, right now, in front of the characters' eyes. And yet the story tells us so much about the whole relationship--its past, present, and possible future. 

How can you use this principle to improve your story? Look for a section of flashback and exposition that take us out of the present moment. Is there a way you can give us this information through action and dialogue, without stopping the narrative to give backstory? 

-Also Read Hemingway's "Indian Camp" and Grace Paley's "Wants." Like "Hills," these are both super short five-minute reads. They cover longer time spans than "Hills" in a very short space. How do they do it? Come ready to discuss these next week.

-(And here's a NY Times Op Ed I mentioned about Bob Dylan's Nobel win for anyone who's interested. This sums up my own view on it, but not everyone's—there has been a lot of debate in the literary community.)

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