Select Page

Author: Michael Kimball

Punctuation and Last Note

Punctuation “Commas can save your life.” A writing teacher told me that. The idea is that the fiction writer needs to pay attention to every detail, to every word, to every bit of acoustical resonance, to every punctuation mark, etc. That is the only way to create great fiction (and, thus, save your life). There are certain punctuation marks that should not be used in fiction. The exclamation point, for instance, is generally not considered a punctuation mark that is found in serious fiction. The point is that the exclamation should already be present in the language, in the...

Read More

Endings and Revising

Endings I don’t like to know how a piece of fiction I’m writing is going to end. This is true when I’m a reader, but it’s especially true when I’m a writer. I try to keep the ending from myself for as long as I can. I want the ending to be a surprise and I want it to seem inevitable. I find Laura van den Berg’s thoughts on endings helpful. She asks a lot of good questions that would help any writer work out an ending: “How does this ending emerge from the character’s internal landscape? How does...

Read More

Description & Details and Figurative Language

Description and Details I cut a lot of description out of my novels. I will stop reading a short story or a novel if it begins with too much description, too much information, or too much exposition. For me, this includes any elaborate set-up, a lot of character description, scene setting, all the connecting business. As Elmore Leonard says: “Don’t go into great detail describing places and things … You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.” Of course, there should be some detail and some description. The idea is a...

Read More

Character and Dialogue

Character A writer can’t actually create people. The characters are only scratches on the page. But there are three good ways through which the fiction writer can create characters—what they do, what they say, what they think. There is also character description, but this way is limited and should be used with caution. As Elmore Leonard says: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” In The Poetics, Aristotle mostly agrees with the previous paragraph: “There will be an element of character if what a person says or does reveals a certain moral purpose.” Ray Bradbury revised the Aristotle to this: “Give...

Read More

Word Counts, and Story & Plot

Word Counts Getting the material down is the hardest part for me. Because of this, I often find it helpful to quantify my writing every day—either an amount of time or the number of words, depending on what I’m writing. I know a writer who gets good work down in one hour a day, but that hour is a planned part of every day, and the writer is ready for it. Here’s Aimee Bender getting at that: “I think the way to get the unconscious revved up is to make a little contract with time, i.e., I have to...

Read More

Openings and Process

This is the best advice I have learned concerning different ways to think about openings, process, story and plot, language and sentences, acoustics, syntax and diction, narration and voice, character, dialogue, description and details, figurative language, endings, revision, and punctuation.

Read More

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

Our Sponsors

Mailing List

Keep current with literary stuff

Type in your email and hit enter
* indicates required