characters Archive

Fictional Writer Master Class: the King’s Men

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Stephen King has a particular knack for fictionalizing the tortured lives of writers. Scribes of varied success people the pages of his works, from protagonists to supporting characters. (Under the Dome’s Thurston Marshall is a recent Ploughshares guest editor!) Many of these characters are also readable as Author Avatars

Fictional Writer Master Class: The Wisdom of J.B. Fletcher

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Writers love to create writer characters, so much so that fictional writers are their own sub-character set. Maybe it’s because we understand the torture of the artistic monkey better than anything else; creating fictional writers is one way of following the adage of writing what you know. Or perhaps we

The Revenge Society

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A few weeks ago, I was furious at someone on a level normally reserved for politics. For about three days I didn’t know how to defuse my anger; I just complained and ranted to any poor person who came within ear shot. It was eating at me, how much

Episodia 1.11: Character Differentiation

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During the first creative writing class I ever taught, a student approached me with a particular challenge. She had a wonderful premise for a novel that revolved around a pack of women who worked in a 1970s factory in the Midwest. But even with a strong idea, she was

From the Slush Pile: Speak to Me

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In his introduction to the most recent issue of Ploughshares, guest editor Peter Ho Davies says that the thrill he found in each selected story was the sense that it spoke to him alone.  But how do you make that happen? We’ve talked about a lot of different strategies to make

Writing Lessons: Rose Waldman

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In our Writing Lessons series, writing students will discuss lessons learned, epiphanies about craft, and the challenges of studying writing. This week, we hear from Rose Waldman, a student in the MFA program at Columbia University. —Andrew Ladd, Blog Editor Like many emerging writers, I had become resigned to

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 6: Save a Horse, Write a (Space) Cowboy

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Over the past few months, the Myth of the Literary Cowboy has explored how and why Willie was spot on when he observed that our “heroes have always been cowboys.” White hats, singers, anti-hero gunslingers, poets, pop music subjects—the role of the cowboy is part of the collective American pop culture

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 3: Golden Years

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When I was an undergrad, I was constantly debating my Comp II nemesis, a film major who would say things like, “Americans didn’t really start making films until the 1970s.” Yes, he was that guy. Once during a film and literature genre discussion, talk turned to Westerns. My nemesis

Episodia 1.4: Survival Archetypes

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Whether it’s in the wake of a zombie apocalypse in “The Walking Dead,” on an electro-magnetic island in “Lost,” or on Capitol Hill in “House of Cards,” any television show that portrays the fight for survival always seems to need the same kinds of characters. But these archetypes don’t

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 2: Make Me a Cowboy

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Last time on Myth of the Literary Cowboy, our hero was developed from the English knight as a post-Civil War appeal to nationalism, and my husband discovered I withheld pie a few years ago. While the cowboy is inspired by the knight, however, he is his own man, one