Describing characters in fiction – literary techniques

In a previous post about memorable characters in fiction I wrote that writers must offer their readers many occasions to get to know the characters populating their stories. In fact, just as in real life the more we know about someone the more intense our feelings can grow for that person, the same happens in a novel. However, given that any work of literature, even the lengthiest one, is always an heavily edited and condensed version of reality, we must choose with care which scenes to include in our stories and which are instead better left out. For example, if in our book we describe Ms. Jones going through an endless series of only relatively trivial incidents, we can rest assured our readers will put down our book and find something better to do. Of course, if we really want to write some experimental book full of meta language and …

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The role of art in society, the ultimate mind map?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. As the quote from Hamlet makes it apparent, Shakespeare knew quite well that the world around us, just like the one residing in our head, is simply too vast and rich for an artist, any artist, to ever hope to describe it in its entirety. This might seem like a terrible limitation on our ability to create art. It also seems to undermine the role of art in society. Instead, I believe this apparent inability, this sort of limitation, is one of the strong points of art. Arts and maps In fact, just like Borges points out in his On Exactitude in Science, maps that are so rich and detailed as the territory they are meant to describe are quintessentially useless. The reason is simple. Maps are by definition representations of a limited number …

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Writers: how to put evolution and culture to good use

Evolution, plain and simple Think of a gazelle. It relies on its speed to flee predators. Just as a lion relies on secrecy to get as close as possible to its prey and hunt it down. In fact, although several predators can run faster than a gazelle, they can do so only over extremely short distances. If, for some glitch in the clockwork of evolution, a gazelle sat perfectly still in plain sight hoping to be overlooked by a predator… Well, that gazelle would most likely be the first and the last of its line. In fact, stillness is only one ingredient of the complex cocktail required for near perfect camouflage. From what I just exposed it seems quite obvious that in nature animals, insects, and plants all play on their respective strengths to keep safe and well. For sure, no gazelle has ever started to train to fight back a …

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The ladder – a free short story

I wrote this free short story, among many others, for a course in creative writing I took years ago. This isn’t a horror story, unless we want to call horror also the challenges we all have to face while growing up. However, I really enjoyed writing it. And now I hope you can find it just as enjoyable. Let me know. The Ladder The wooden ladder stretches above the first floor of the barn. From where he is, Mikey can make out the piles of hay. Beyond these, hung up to the farther wall, a scythe rests in the shadows – its curved blade glimmering like a demented smirk. The pungent smell of manure coming from the fields saturates the air. By comparison, the fragrance of the hay is nothing more than a subliminal hint. But it keeps tickling at his nose in a most intolerable way. Fucking hay fever. Mikey …

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How to jump-start your creativity

Creativity can be a capricious companion. At times I don’t feel like writing anything at all. I mean, although my head has been buzzing with ideas all day long, as the time of my writing session gets nearer, it seems to me that my ideas dry up and vanish into thin air. Once upon a time, this used to piss me off.  But thanks to my stubbornness this is no longer the case. Freewriting, boredom, and creativity In fact, on such occasions I sit down at my desk and start pounding on my keyboard all the same. Only, as freewriting  suggests, I just write whatever comes to my mind, without trying to put the words together in any coherent way. I guess I could say I write just to loosen up my creative muscles. The first few minutes of such sessions aren’t exactly inspiring. Indeed, they’re more a mix of …

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