characters Archive

The Art of Dialogue for the Reticent

I write down bits of conversation I overhear in the train, in the park, at the checkout line, and borrow the more memorable ones for my own fiction writing. I am interested in the lines that sound strange or nonsensical, because they show a sense of character and intimacy

Challenging Cultural Norms: Contemporary British Women Authors

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized what I’d been searching for all along. An avid reader, I absorbed a variety of books during my childhood and adolescence. These were carefully screened by my well-meaning but stifling folks, who paled at the thought me reading

Is International Fiction Relatable?

Not too long ago, as a writer who was based in India, once a colony of the British, and who had once been a “citizen of the world” living in the United States, I wondered, with apprehension, whether my stories would resonate with American and global readers and editors.

Literary Teachers and Their Lessons

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I have a new teaching job this fall, and so I’ve been thinking even more than usual about classrooms, and teachers, and the hold they have on our imaginations. It’s strange to realize, right before I walk into a classroom to teach, how clearly I can remember most of

Literary Blueprints: The Mad Woman

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In this second installment of the Literary Blueprints series, we’ll look at the Mad Woman. Don’t forget to read the first Blueprint, The Byronic Hero. Origin Story: Also referred to as “The Mad Woman in the Attic,” this character type hails from the dark side of Jane Eyre. Bertha

Literary Blueprints: The Byronic Hero

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Follow this new blog series in 2015, where we’ll delve into the background of character archetypes–the Mad Woman, the Detective, and the Wise Fool, to name a few. In this first installment, we take a look at the Byronic Hero. Origin Story: In literature, the Byronic Hero’s first embodiment is

Retelling Tales: A Writer’s Guide

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So much of modern cinema and fiction revolves around the anti-hero and the sympathetic villain. Our culture seems to need our protagonists to be damaged or troubled in some way. It’s as if in some grand pursuit of Nietzsche’s rejection of absolutes, we can only accept shades of gray.

The Ploughshares Round Down: How To Tell People What Your Book Is About

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Last week, I received a fiction pitch I knew I would reject a few lines in. It contained the phrase, “after he discovers a family secret long since buried.” (Or something like that.) I wrote back to the author and admitted that I was passing because, while other people

Fictional Writer Master Class: Fowles and the Fiction Bender

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“But rather, what the devil am I going to do with you?” In John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the unnamed narrator poses this question to himself about the character sleeping before him. Only he isn’t just the narrator; he’s much more than that. He’s part of a group

Fictional Writer Master Class: The Bamboozlers

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One of the perks of working in academia is ordering desk copies of books. While more often than not these things are tedious tomes that would put me to sleep, never mind my students, sometimes I happen upon gems, such as The Twentieth-Novel: An Introduction by R.B. Kershner. I’ll