Burroway Notes 1 & 2.pdf

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Companion Notes For Burroway Ch. 1 & 2. The purpose of ... As Janet Burroway tells us, this means that just because something “really happened” doesn't ...

ENGL&151/152/153  –  Creative  Writing  (Online)     Companion  Notes  For  Burroway  Ch.  1  &  2     The  purpose  of  these  notes  is  to  supplement  (not  replace!)  your  reading  in  Burroway.  Please   consult  these  notes  only  after  completing  the  assigned  reading  in  the  book.     Chapter  One     Fiction  is  oftentimes  about  the  emotional  undertow  of  things.  It  is  not  to  “mean   something,”  or  to  make  an  argument.  Your  job  as  fiction  writer,  above  all  else,  is  to  create  a   credible  world.  As  Janet  Burroway  tells  us,  this  means  that  just  because  something  “really   happened”  doesn’t  mean  it  is  credible  enough  to  be  used  in  your  fiction.  The  justification,  “but   that’s  what  she  really  said!”  is  not  enough.  Over  the  coming  weeks  we  will  explore  the  various   ways  you  create  that  credible  world  in  fiction.         Do  not  start  out  with  a  plan.  Instead,  write  to  figure  out  the  plan.  Doing  so  will  keep   your  writing  honest  and  not  overly  contrived.    Contrivance  will  be  the  death  of  your  short  story.   As  writers,  we  use  writing  to  find  our  story,  keeping  in  mind  that  if  in  the  end  we  get  what  we   expected  when  we  set  out,  it  isn’t  good  enough.  Why?  Because  the  surprises  and  turns  in  a   story  (for  the  writer  as  well  as  the  reader)  are  what  make  it  energetic,  interesting,  and  credible.   And  so,  the  process  of  learning  how  to  write  creatively  is  a  process  of  becoming  comfortable   fumbling  through  the  dark.     The  Story  Notion       Then  how  do  you  begin?  You  begin  with  what  can  be  called  “the  story  notion,”  which  is   anything  you  observe  in  the  world,  no  matter  how  small,  that  strikes  you  as  interesting  enough   to  write  about,  even  (especially!)  if  you  don’t  have  the  full  story.  For  example:     *  Events     *  Images  or  Scenes     *  Phrases   *  People     *  A  bit  of  dialogue     *  Places   *  Slogans     *  Conversations     *  Something  you  saw  or  overheard     Janet  Burroway  gives  us  a  warning  about  genre  fiction.  Please  heed  it.         Keep  a  journal  of  the  kind  Burroway  talks  about  if  you  want.  I  will  not  ask  to  see  it,  nor   will  it  have  any  impact  on  your  grade.  As  soon  as  it  enters  that  sort  of  arena,  it  ceases  to  be  a   journal  and  it  becomes  something  else.  The  important  thing  to  remember  with  keeping  a   journal  (and  with  developing  your  writerly  eyes  in  general)  is  to  record  observations  (outer-­‐ directed)  more  than  feelings  (inner-­‐directed).  This,  as  Burroway  suggests,  will  train  you  to   observe  the  world,  not  your  own  brain.     We  will  revisit  the  material  about  workshops  in  a  few  weeks  when  we  get  there.  

Chapter  Two     Creating  a  credible  world  means  creating  a  world  your  reader  can  enter.  This  is  done   with  details  and  images,  not  with  ideas.  Ideas  are  abstract  and  are  therefore  not  images.   Images  are  concrete,  and  they  evoke  one  or  several  of  our  five  senses.       Inventory     The  inventory  in  your  piece  of  fiction  is  a  fundamentally  important  type  of  image.   Inventory  is  all  the  “stuff”  that’s  there.  Furniture,  clothing,  food,  cars,  telephones,  wool  socks,   oven  cleaner,  an  old  leather-­‐bound  atlas,  the  third  turkey  sandwich  Marty  had  that  day,  etc.   Without  these  things,  you  don’t  have  a  credible  world.  So,  fill  your  story  with  inventory!         Along  with  inventory,  we  must  also  always  remember  the  body.  All  your  characters  have   bodies,  and  bodily  details  make  good  images.  Keep  in  mind  that  throughout  history,  whenever   a  character  has  entered  the  scene,  they  are  described  in  terms  of  their  eyes  and  hair.  Break  free   of  these  constraints!  In  addition  to  what  people  look  like,  investigate  other  aspects  of  bodily   experience.  Is  your  character  hungry,  tired,  or  cold?  Has  he  been  sitting  too  long?     These  aspects  of  our  humanity  are  part  of  what  make  your  characters  credible.  Another   part  is  the  fact  that  they  had  a  life  before  page  one.  Or  at  least  your  reader  must  believe  that   they  did.  So,  how  are  you  as  a  writer  creating  a  sense  that  we  as  readers  have  come  into   someone’s  life?  What  was  the  character  doing  the  night  before  the  story  started?  Why  are  we   getting  the  story  on  this  day  in  their  life?  When  was  the  last  time  those  two  saw  each  other?   And  so  on.  There  are  various  ways  to  answer  these  questions  in  fiction,  but  for  now  it’s  enough   simply  to  begin  training  yourself  to  think  about  the  questions.       Burroway  instructs  us  in  the  usefulness  of  nouns  and  verbs  in  creating  imagery.  These   are  wise  words!  Unfortunately  whoever  named  all  the  parts  of  speech  got  at  least  one  wrong:   adjectives.  Commonly  known  as  “describing”  words,  adjectives  are  not  always  (and  I  won’t  even   say  usually)  the  best  way  to  describe  and  create  images.  Nouns  and  verbs  take  precedence,  so   start  to  be  aware  of  how  many  nouns,  verbs,  and  adjectives  you  are  using.  The  first  two  should   far  outnumber  that  last  one.     Finally,  in  this  chapter  Burroway  raises  one  of  the  central  tenets  of  creative  writing:   show  don’t  tell.  If  you  don’t  already  know,  this  is  an  idea  you’ll  want  to  get  quite  familiar  with.   Showing  (by  way  of  image,  detail,  inventory,  etc.)  allows  the  reader  to  form  judgments,  instead   of  the  writer  making  judgments  herself.