Craft Strategy: White Space

I suspect my undergraduate writing students will have no difficulty recognizing at least one craft strategy in my recently published essay, “Reckoning.” I teach it early and often.

Perhaps it’s my trademark.

I’m talking about white space. I like to use it around a single short line to make the line stand out and demand attention. It’s a strategic move that stuck with me after several semesters of poetry in college, even as I migrated to prose. To be clear, I’m not talking about dialogue, which might look set off by white space because of grammar conventions. I’m talking about an original line of my thoughts that I deliberately place by itself.

I know your eyes go there.

Crafting Grief: Narrative Point of View

First in a series of posts looking closely at the craft of writing about grief Last month I facilitated a writing workshop about narrative point of view (NPOV), and afterwards it occurred to me that I have looked closely at the craft of many texts specifically about grief. I’ll even be so bold as toContinue reading “Crafting Grief: Narrative Point of View”

Hold Readers at a Climax

When I first read stories with students and ask them to identify the climax, they tend to point to a small amount of text, often two sentences or less. This is one of a handful of common phenomena that still baffles me — where did so many of us get the idea that climaxes are small?

More accurately, the climax is often the most important part of the story, and, consequently, it gets the most space.

Beginnings: 3 Examples (and Why They Work)

After my post about “Beginnings, Middles and Ends” a few weeks ago, a teacher-friend reached out to me. “When I tell students I want them to work on ‘the beginning,’ I don’t mean all that rising action you mentioned,” she said. “I am talking about much simpler stuff. I just want them to write anContinue reading “Beginnings: 3 Examples (and Why They Work)”

The Trouble with Beginning, Middle and End

I recently helped judge a story writing contest, and one of the criteria on the assessment form I was provided was: Does the story have a beginning, middle and end? As I began reading the entries, I quickly discovered that this was not useful assessment criteria.

4 Craft Strategies to Notice in THE LEAVING MORNING (and Why)

The best touchstone texts are sophisticated enough to work across multiple grade and comprehension levels. One of the first—and still one of the most frequent—touchstone texts that I used was THE LEAVING MORNING by Angela Johnson. Here are just a few of the brilliant craft strategies my students and I have discovered in it: