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Lesson

The first, most basic rule of fiction writing is: SHOW, DON'T TELL.

What does SHOW, DON'T TELL mean?

Lance Olsen answers the question in Chp. 13: Word Worlds of Architectures of Possibility. You will also find the answer in R. Michael Burns Creative Writing 101: Show vs. Tell, a short tutorial written for the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group.

And now: READ!!!

Fiction #1

Write a story with the following conditions: It is exactly twenty-six sentences in length. Each sentence begins with a word that starts with one of the letters of the alphabet—in order. For example:

All the excuses had been used. By the time the school doctor saw me, he'd heard everything. Coughing, I began to tell him about the lie that I hoped would save us all. [And so forth.]

Your story can be about anything. The objective here might be initially obscured by such a strange task. What the assignment illuminates is form's role in process. Since the imposed form has nothing at all to do with your real agenda, the exercise becomes a fundamental exploration of our sense of story, narrative rise and fall, and process—process most prominently. It can be both a challenge and a comfort knowing how that next sentence begins.

Featured Book

Larry McCaffery, ed. After Yesterday's Crash: The Avant-Pop Anthology. 1995.

REVIEW: "The works collected in this anthology emerge from discussions of life and art in which discourse would be inconceivable without the prefix 'hyper': hyperconsumption, hyperreality, hypertext. According to McCaffery (Storming the Reality Studio), Avant-Pop makes sense of the late-20th century mediascape through collage, improvisation and the 'information-dense feel of advertising.' What sets Avant-Pop apart from plain Pop, says McCaffery, is its practitioners' willingness to go beyond neutral presentation of the raw materials of pop culture to a more active transformation. The contributors vary widely from Steve Erickson, Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Ron Sukenick, Rikki Ducornet, Euridice, Lynne Tillman (the last three equalling three fifths of the feminine representation in this collection of 32), SF writers William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and many cross-disciplinary artists like Guillermo Gomez-Peña. It's an uneven collection that seems to be bound together by narrative velocity, yet the most memorable work is notable for its stillness: Ben Marcus's poetic and movingly familiar guidebook to an alternate world, 'False Water Society.' This may be the first literary anthology that would have been significantly improved by a multimedia format encompassing moving images, hypertext and the many musical influences McCaffery cites as examples of Avant-Pop from Carl Stallings to Nirvana."—Publisher's Weekly

Readings & Assignments

Fiction #1: Submit via Pilot. DUE DATE & TIME: Friday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m.

Discussion: Read Francine Prose's “Pumpkins” in Flash Fiction and write a response to it in the appropriate discussion forum on Pilot. Pay specific attention to perspective and use of detail. What details bring the story to life? What kind of narration does the author use and from what point of view is the narrator situated? DUE DATE & TIME: Friday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m.

Architectures of Possibility: Read FOUR: Workshop Model(s), FIVE: The Garbage Disposal Imagination and SIX: Beginnings. Choose TWO of the nine exercises located on pgs. 77-78 and complete them. Submit via Pilot on the same document. DUE DATE & TIME: Friday, Feb. 7, 11 a.m.

Journal Entries: [2] Write about an object from an unusual angle—upside down, sideways, in a different light. [3] Write a narrative that pokes fun at some aspect of human nature. (REMEMBER: As the syllabus indicates, unless specified otherwise, each assigned journal topic should be addressed in no less than 250 words. Entries that you produce on your own impetus may vary in length—from, say, 50 to 1,000 words. If self-guided entries are all only a few sentences long, you are not writing enough.)