The Art of Fiction
I haven’t started reading this yet, but it looks promising!

Hello, everyone! 🙂 So, the spring semester’s just started up for me (although I’m seriously wondering how there’s anything “spring” about the 16-degree weather forecast for tomorrow…), and so far it’s been a mix of “Do I actually need to take these two classes to graduate?” and “Wow, I finally get to take a fiction workshop class in grad school.” My school lost their graduate creative writing teacher the year before I started grad school, and I’ve pretty much been waiting for a fiction writing class ever since.

As you can see from the handy picture to the right of this text, the textbook list for this semester’s writing class includes John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. I haven’t had the chance to start reading it, but I couldn’t resist flipping to the back to take a look at some of the exercises.

Something I found interesting about Gardner’s exercises is that he sometimes leaves a little description at the end of his prompt, explaining the purpose of the exercise.

And, since I’m writing this at midnight and I am very much questioning why I decided to post this late, I think I’ll conclude with the first individual exercise in the book:

Write a paragraph that would appear in a piece of fiction just before the discovery of a body. You might perhaps describe the character’s approach to the body he will find, or the location, or both. The purpose of the exercise is to develop the technique of at once attracting the reader to the paragraph to follow, making him want to skip ahead, and holding him on this paragraph by virtue of its interest. Without the ability to write such foreplay paragraphs, one can never achieve real suspense. (Gardner 201)

Of course, I’m also particularly fond of of the 27th individual exercise listed in the book: “Using all you know, write a short story about an animal—for instance, a cow” (Gardner 206). For some reason, I find it hilarious that the first example that popped into the author’s head was a cow…

Anyway, feel free to use either prompt and leave your work in the comments section! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Murder with a Side of Cow

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