Category Archives: ENGL 2307 Prose


Some readers and critics would tell us that a story is simply and only language. What they may mean by this is that a story, whether it is told orally or written, whether it is factually verifiable or fiction, is not an object like a shovel or a table, but is something that exits only as words. Therefore, the plot is constructed of language, as are the characters and the setting, and so forth. Add a few words and the character is changed; take away a few and the plot is altered. Continue reading


One sentence almost every child hears from his or her parents is “Don’t take that tone with me!”  In growing up, we almost always regret this moment.  For some reason, now beyond our memory, we spoke in such a way that showed our parents nothing of our love and respect for them.  Instead, we were surly, disrespectful, impatient, or self-righteous.  Or as some people would say, we had an attitude. Continue reading


Understanding the importance of setting for a story is easy.  If you were to plan what might be the most romantic moment of your life–say, the moment you ask the person you love to marry you–where would you plan to be?  Taking an evening stroll on a Caribbean beach?  Seated at a candlelit table in a quiet, beautiful restaurant?  Sweating in the front seat of a Chevy Nova in five o;clock traffic, the Beastie Boys in the table deck?  Holding a super sized Hefty bag full of empty beer cans the morning after the Super Bowl party?  Most of us know which of these places we would choose because we know, even without considering how, that thee is a link between the meaning of events and where and when those events occur. Continue reading

The Narrator and Point of View

We’ve all had experience listening to older couples tell stories from their early days together.  One might say to you, “Did we ever tell you about our first trip to New York?  That was some trip.” Continue reading


Most of us would probably say that in life we seek peace, happiness, contentment, and tranquility.  Many of us, in fact spend a considerable effort avoiding conflict in our lives.  Someone yells at us and we walk away.  The IRS asks for more money, and we site a check, rather than call a lawyer.  Interestingly, the last thing we want in entertainment is peace and tranquility.  “I hated that movie!  Nothing happened!”  we might say.  Or after a football game that ends 64-0, we might confess that “I wish it would have been more of a contest.  I felt like leaving at halftime.” Continue reading


In our daily live one of the greatest joys is to meet people with whom we feel some connection.  “You won’t believe it,” we say to a friend, “but I met the most interesting person today at work.”  What did we like about this person?  The way he looked, the way he spoke, the way he behaved in a certain situation, he experiences and attitudes toward life?  All of these factors can be what makes us care about a person and care about what happens to that person. Continue reading

Theme in Fiction and Memoir

Have you ever had a “Life Saver Moment’? A few years ago, the company that makes the candy Life Savers advertised its product by depicting a child having some kind of accident, making some kind of mistake, getting one’s feelings hurt. Then a father or grandfather would sit next to the crying child and offer a Life Savers candy. What followed we imagine was a little story. “Did I ever tell you about the time when your aunt Juanita. . . .” Continue reading

The Experience of Fiction

In discussing writing fiction, I will focus on the short story, but much of what I will say will apply to writing other kinds of fiction, and very often true for other forms of narrative, even if they are factually true (as in with memoir or creative non-fiction).   How a short story differs from other kinds of fictions, from novels or plays, from monologues or fables or fairy tales, is a matter of much discussion among writers, critics, and teachers. It really is not too cynical or lazy to say that a short story is a story that is short. What we mean by story can be described as a series of events with characters in conflict somewhere in time and place (setting), that the events are communicated in language and in prose (as opposed say to a narrative painting or poem or song), and that the events are told from a point of view with an authorial attitude or perspective (point of view and tone).   What we mean by short, we can rely on Edgar Allan Poe’s definition that said the story could be read in about an hour or two. Continue reading

Telling Stories and The Truth of Fiction

It would be frightening to know how many people in the world can sing the theme song to “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Whether they learned it in the 1960s, when the television show originally appeared or whether they learned it in reruns and syndication in the decades since, millions of people, world-wide, are familiar with the basic outline of one family’s story.   The strange thing is this family never really existed. Continue reading