Comment Summaries


  • Tim Chambers { I like to start with dialogue. I do as much characterization and story development as I can using only dialogue. Then, what can't be done most effectively with dialogue, I try to do with narrative. For me, it makes the dialogue carry its own water. Then I can begin to set the scene, imagine the gestures and so forth. } – December 2, 2012
  • keva judge { oh my god this made me cry in my 15 years i have never read anything more moving } – November 29, 2012
  • howie { Rob, Does it ever hurt to be so f---ing terminally hip? I mean you’re a male feminist and all and that’s got to require a shitload of effort. And, you wear those too-tight-fitting shirts. You’ve done that for years. Isn’t it uncomfortable? Is that the price you pay to be so ‘effin cool? And that haircut, GAWD! that haircut. Is that professionally mussed or does it “just happen”? I really, really, really want to be like you some day, but it just looks like such an effort. Could you please tell us Philistines how you pull it all off? BTW... } – November 27, 2012
  • Tshidi Tshabalala { wow...this essay really hepled me a lot as i was still struggling with understanding the narrator and storyteller concepts. thanx! im sure il nail my exam *smiles* } – October 27, 2012
  • admin { My initial reaction, which is not advice but a general observation, is be careful of writing any story with the a story mechanism like three overlapping characters as a major purpose to write the story, and create effects and meaning. In other words, trying to work points of view to provide meaning and significance may not be the best approach. Great stories have beginning, middle and ends, are character based, engage a reader, entertain the reader, and have some sort of enlightenment, usually about what it means to be human. (You can entertain a reader by creative plot twists, withheld... } – August 28, 2012
  • Jeff Bukowski { Hi WHC, Your essays are both a great guide, and source of inspiration. Addressing a wide range on specific topics, of much needed attention. I have recently set myself the goal of trying to complete a story for a competition as a form of motivation. I usually enjoy developing my characters, and seeing how they will grow, etc. However, this has to be a literary short story. 8000 words max. I want to tell the story of three overlapping POV's, that overlap with each other, illustrating how they wrap their identities in fiction, to disguise the true dark selves from... } – August 28, 2012
  • Robin Martin { I enjoyed reading this great interview, Bill. } – July 19, 2012
  • admin { Absolutely agree. A very effective plan in an age where available resources don't seem to measure up, for the most part. Study of the greats is enjoyable, and useful. Ask: How did they do that? Would love to know how you fare. All the best, WHC } – June 28, 2012
  • andre harris { I agree that looking at the MFA courses they really can't offer me any help, I think there are some decent poetry teachers out there of very high standing, because poets don't make any money from their writing, but it seem the fiction writers are mostly hacks or they give very basic instruction. I've cracked the problems of writing prolifically I've read all the books on standard technique rules, now I want some hand holding to take me through the process you talk about. I'm wondering if the answer isn't to follow, at least on your own, the program of... } – June 28, 2012
  • Danji { I would have liked, perhaps, to see a good example of the scene description... I've noticed that this happens often in this website - an essay will criticize a certain technique without providing alternates. Though I understand there is no one "right way" to write, it would be nice to have a better example to look to. } – June 8, 2012
  • Miranda { Good points, all. Honestly, the best thing I did for my fiction writing was quit my writer's group. Truly the blind leading the blind. Worse, however, was the constant critique of unfinished pieces, before ideas were given time to develop and time for layers to be added. } – June 6, 2012
  • admin { Thanks for your request. I've recently recommended Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers (for an idea of how to identify reading stimulated by p[roblems that occur as you are writing) and Aristotle's Poetics (to begin to embody the essences of storytelling that have directed serious creative writers for almost two mellenium). I won't rate how-to books. These books should be as reference. I will direct, however, your reading of a specific book (usually a portion) as an aid to improving work submitted or questions posed on website. Best regards, WHC } – April 9, 2012
  • Sanchyeta { Sir, will you please tell me which books out of all the above mentioned books are appropriate to begin with. I know they all are very good. Will you rate the books in terms of first reads, and obviously the rest will follow next. Regards } – April 8, 2012
  • John Patterson { It is rather degrading and disingenuous to insinuate that literary fiction is distinguished from "genre" fiction by its greater emotional depth. Such a charge implies that the trappings of genre fiction automatically preclude the same depth and quality of emotions, or that genre writers are incapable of placing that depth into their stories. Not only is this demonstrably false (check the works of Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. LeGuin, Patrick Rothfuss, etc.), but it closes off genre fiction from ever being taken seriously, even when it earns that right. Genre fiction is thus arrogantly waved... } – March 31, 2012
  • penny { this was a cool story very helpful } – February 29, 2012
  • admin { Good question. I do not know the answer but suggest you contact Rebeca McClanahan at her website: http://www.mcclanmuse.com/ Thanks for comment. WHC } – February 27, 2012
  • Ingrid Brandt { How do you explain the title" Interstellar"to tie in with your very interesting story? } – February 27, 2012
  • siti aisyah { ....:) } – February 19, 2012
  • admin { Thanks for your comment. Pleased the interview was useful. WHC } – February 16, 2012
  • admin { Thanks for question. At present, I teach only on the Internet (there is a workshop on site). That is to me, thanks to the Internet, the new way to be efficient and provided a more mentored feel to comments. The workshop is still developing. Now exercises are available for completion and comment if desired. In a few weeks, a Q&A session will be available where students can open a dialogue about their work, theirs goals, or their frustrations with learning a difficult art form with few resources to succeed. That is all free. If you were looking for workshops by... } – February 13, 2012
  • Dennis Klein { When next ws and price? Any in SF Bay Area? Thanks } – February 13, 2012
  • admin { Thanks for your comment. I can't bring myself to name names for fear of personal subjectivity contributing to unfairness to some that may not be justified. But my experience--I've taken over sixty workshops in the last twelve years--convinces me the quality of teaching and talent of writers teaching is so mediocre and so widespread that a talented fiction writer today is quickly and often permanently derailed on his or her quest to good fiction writing and storytelling. On most days, I think it's sinking quality literary fiction into an archaic art form perceived as unreadable. Again, thanks. WHC } – January 19, 2012
  • teach { I agree with your statements and think that some of the writers you interview on this site are guilty of being affiliated with MFA programs while being terrible writers. (Woe to the Ohio State MFA student. The Bright Forever by Lee Martin left a "Blight" Forever infesting my fiction palate.) I think the problem is that MFAs have become the primary source of sustenance for many writers and so they use these programs to secure a teaching gig in order to continue to inflict their crappy prose on readers everywhere. I would like you to go one step further and... } – January 18, 2012
  • Dwayne { I have found "The Catcher in the Rye" extremely helpful. Namely, for voice. It showed me new ways of looking at 1st-person narrators, especially those types of narrators that can't see themselves as others can see them. Also, I've had quite a bit of fun reading Kazuo Ishiguro's book of short stories titled: Nocturnes. The story, "Malvern Hills," is great example of a character who is totally oblivious to the world around him. Fun read. } – January 15, 2012
  • admin { Hey Tim. Thanks for comment. All he more meaningful to me coming from you with your background and skills. All the best. Bill } – November 21, 2011
  • Tim Chambers { Oops, I left something out there "to know when they are helpful..." } – November 21, 2011
  • Tim Chambers { It's been a while since I visited but I found someone had clicked through from my site to yours, and it reminded me of your existence. You're in fine form here, Bill. In response to Mendota, I would say that you seem to have enough experience of writing programs to when their helpful and when they are not. I think the proof of your argument lies in the fact that your way has produced the great writers of classic works, and it still remains to be seen what the MFA programs can do. I certainly have not been impressed with... } – November 21, 2011
  • admin { No answer is satisfactory. It depends on author's conceptualization and style. And there are always certain readers who are pleased. However, there are some guidelines every author can consider and then apply if they seem right. 1. Is the information in the back story significant to story and characterization. If so, burying it in back story may diminish it. If not, it usually should be worked in through less intrusive techniques such as narrative, dialogue, exposition, internal reflection, etc. 2. Is the narrative designed to ponder and reflect? Back story may work well. But if the author's desire is to... } – November 19, 2011
  • C.J. { I enjoyed the back story examples here. How do you suggest finding the proper balance throughout a work of fiction especially? Deciding when to press action without back story as opposed to adding some, amid a 400p novel? } – November 19, 2011
  • Helen { Loved your story. When I was in hospital having my first baby, I had met an unmarried young lady who was in tears because she wanted to keep her baby, but felt that she had to abort the child due to peer pressures. I thought of the Virgin Mary, thinking that she would not be too pleased. I gave her advise to keep the child. Your story sure gives advice to parents and in-laws, who discriminate, instead of loving the greatest divine gift of all. } – November 10, 2011
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