We opened the second session of the four-week fiction workshop with a discussion of Andrea Barrett’s Theories of Rain, from her collection, Servants of the Map. The story not only provides a variety of settings–large and small, from cottage to woods, to the William Bartram’s garden–but also offers excellent examples of how setting can be a character itself and can reveal elements of other characters that might otherwise remain hidden.
To move from this story to an exploration of sentences and setting, we read paragraphs from Annie Proulx (People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water, from the collection, Close Range), Murray Bail (Eucalyptus), and Michael Ondaatje (In the Skin of a Lion).
Working with the characters we created in the previous session, we listed several settings the character might inhabit or wish to inhabit–large (bigger than a house), small (smaller than a room), comfortable, out of his or her element, a bucket list place–and then began to play with setting and sentence length.
Our characters snuck into one of these places, exploring them over the course of around 150 words, all in short (five- to seven-word sentences). We noted how these short sentences heighten the drama and anticipation in these moments.
Our characters then meandered into another place in a sentence that took up a half page or more. Here, participants noted how they were able to really drop down into the place and observe more fully.
Later in the session, another character entered the setting–one who felt differently than our initial character.
What are some of your favorite settings from works you’ve read? Why do those appeal to you as a reader? Do you have favorite places you like to write about? What makes those appealing to you as a writer?
We’re taking a week off next week. When we return, each participant will bring a completed draft with which we’ll play, exploring a variety of ways in which writers can choose to allow a story to unfold.
Posted in Workshops, Writing
Tagged character, characters, fiction, novel, page, pen, reading, story, write, writer, writing
The final week of the A to Z Blog Challenge: Yoga, and how it connects with writing for me.
In Vedic Sanskrit, the word Yoga means to add, join or unite. This is what writing and reading are about for me. As a writer, I am trying to unite challenging and disparate ideas, to make them cohesive and engaging. And so I am also trying to unite my work with readers and to connect through the page, even though I may never meet or hear from them. I like to read works that deeply engage with the natural world and that look at difficult, deeply felt occurrences. I work to do the same in my own writing. I hope that these practice, of reading and writing, will deepen my own connection to the world and the people in it. So, another layer of joining.
In yoga practice, I physically embody the ability to be still and to relax in difficult places, in asanas (poses) that don’t feel natural at first and that rub up against the edge of where I think I can go. The longer I practice, the more I am able to pay attention to subtle cues and to notice the big difference tiny adjustments make. Sometimes these adjustments aren’t visible outside my body, but they help me deepen my practice. The connection to writing is the capacity for sitting with difficult subject matter and letting it come fully forward, knowing that it won’t break me to feel deeply (and if I feel it truly is too much, I can do the equivalent of dropping into child’s pose and returning to the work the next day to try again). There’s the capacity for noticing increasing layers not only in myself and my writing but in the world around me. And, of course, the building of the ability to see the ways in which everything is connected.
Some of the great writers, Hemingway, for instance, turned to alcohol to help them drop into the harsh places. I’m certainly not averse to a drink (or two) but I think yoga allows me a deeper and more sustainable practice.
You’ve found my blog.
As you can gather from the top of the page, I’ll be posting some of my own writing, thoughts on what I’m reading by other authors and where I’m reading my own work, details about workshops I offer, other writing and editing services and general stuff I like.
Yes, this is mostly a writing blog, but those are indeed trees as the top of the page (as well as a nice bit of granite on the left). There’s a connection there — in addition to the fact that I love being outdoors, much of what I write and read connects text and the natural world.
I’m in the process of moving posts over from heathermagruder.wordpress.com. Please have a look there for samples of my writing, book reviews and posts on the craft of writing.