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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reading For Craft


Short Stories

“I think that finding a voice in writing has everything to do with integrity and little to do with stylistic imitation.” Maeve Binchy

As writers first trying to identify voice, and then discover our own is often a long difficult road. We often hear editors say they are looking for a fresh voice and sigh, not sure whether we fit or not. Reading through a variety of different and distinct voices helps us to clarify distinctions, which in turn can give us a roadmap to seeing our own so that we can avoid imitation.

When we read through a compilation of short stories by different authors we will find ourselves automatically drawn to some stories, ambivalent about others, and perhaps even bored by a few, regardless of the quality of writing. This is a valuable method of studying voice because now we ask ourselves some hard questions as a reader. First read a short story for sheer reading enjoyment. Then take a few moments to jot down your initial response. Let it sit for a few days and then re-read with a critical eye. What exactly affected you positively or negatively and why?

Are you bored by the subject itself or the viewpoint? What would you do differently? Is your ambivalence due to the POV character? Why? Do they remind you of someone personally or is their tone of voice off putting? What would you do to change it? Same questions re the areas you feel positive—why exactly? What changes if made in that story would cause you to dislike it?

Sometimes it is daunting to dissect a novel in order to discover just how did the author manage to do that. Reading a short story collection opens many opportunities to not only examine voice, but also character, scene, theme, language and plot under a welcoming magnifying glass.

Reading in one theme genre alone helps to narrow a study even more while also showing the wide possiblity of diverse voices on one topic. With Christmas coming it’s a perfect match for Christmas spirit and  meaningful examination.

Below are three Christmas series I have read and am reading this year. The series 12 Days of Christmas by Kathy Macias, told by twelve authors, includes historical and contemporary stories with both first and third person POV. The Pioneer Christmas Collection has several voices. And last year’s The Log Cabin Christmas  includes a variety of authors.
                  read deep, marcy

Share: What short story collection has helped you study writing?


                                          The Twelve Days of Christmas Series, Kathy Macias      

                                                     The Pioneer Christmas Collection


 The Log Cabin Christmas Collection

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