Friday, April 5, 2013

The Art of Modeling--How Other People's Books Can Make Yours Better

When I was in graduate school, one of my teachers suggested a sketchy idea:  Read a favorite published writer and "model" them. 

She suggested it because I was way stuck--in a (to me unsolvable) problem with one of my chapters.  It needed a lot less imagery.  I love imagery.  So me and the chapter were at a standstill.  I was at a loss:  how to capture necessary emotion without the pictures?

Luckily, my teacher was a minimalist writer.  She was famous for this in her novels and short stories.  I loved them but they were like a foreign language.  She answered my dilemma with a list of books to find and read. 

Like her writing, most of the writers on the list were also minimalists.  A few occasional visual or sensory details.  Imagine Old Man and the Sea but in modern prose.  Sentences short and to the point, characters who didn't mess with thoughts or reflection.