Tag Archives: Authorquotes

Authors’ Words: Edgar Allen Poe

Writers Unite!’s Write the Story project has been successful with more and more writers joining it. To celebrate the short story, a quote from a master teller of short stories and more, the amazing Edgar Allen Poe.

“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Eleonora by Edgar Allen Poe (published 1850)

Edgar Allan Poe

On January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe’s father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was thirteen years old at the time. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies.

Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of style and structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

Resources

https://poets.org/poet/edgar-allan-poe

Image of Quote found on Google.com. Unable to determine origin. Credit to the creator of the image.

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WU! Workshop: The Short Story

WU! Workshop: The Short Story

By D. A. Ratliff

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”  ― Edgar Allan Poe

The short story evolved in the 19th Century as a result of the changing population in America. British novelists published chapters of their novels in serial form in newspapers and then published the entire novel. American novelists began to circulate their novels as serials as well until the population began to migrate from city to city. Serializing a novel for a paper that changes readership often was ineffective. Publishers who needed story content for their newspapers commissioned shorter complete stories, and the short story was born.

Commercialized at first, interest in these stories diminished with the advent of the motion picture. Short stories as we know them today are more literary and not as widely read. Fewer outlets for publishing exist, but the last few years have seen an increased interest in the format. Writing groups are publishing anthologies, and literary and national magazines offer short stories.

“A short story is a sprint, a novel is a marathon. Sprinters have seconds to get from here to there and then they are finished. Marathoners have to carefully pace themselves so that they don’t run out of energy (or in the case of the novelist — ideas) because they have so far to run. To mix the metaphor, writing a short story is like having a short, intense affair, whereas writing a novel is like a long rich marriage.”  ― Jonathan Carroll

The question often asked is, how does a short story differ from a novel?

The clever answer is that they are shorter, albeit a somewhat obvious answer. Writer’s Digest, a well-known magazine and online writing site, defines a short story as ranging from 1,500 to 30,000 words. However, there is a considerable discrepancy regarding short-story word count between ‘experts.’ If submitting to a publication or contest, always check the stated guidelines.

Length, however, is not the only variance. A short story is structured differently. To create an effective short story, you need to simplify and amplify.

Let’s look at the components of a short story.

The Character

Yes, the character. While you will have secondary characters in your story, the conflict, the goal, the action, and focus should be on one character. Keep all other characters to their specific roles to move the story along. Not to say that you cannot develop those secondary characters but do so only in the context of the plot.

You need to develop your main character quickly. It is imperative to establish a connection between your reader and character from the beginning as you would in a novel. Being as concise as possible, give as many traits, positive and negative, physical or personality, as needed to paint a believable image in the minds of your readers. You can still complete a story arc but with fewer steps.

The Opening

The goal of any writer is to gain the attention of your reader from the first word. That is not always an attainable goal but at least have their attention in the first paragraph or two. In a short story, the quicker you get to the action, the better. Open with movement, a vivid scene that puts your reader into the story immediately or something compelling about your main character.

The Plot

A short story should have one plot defined and focused on your main character. There is no room for sub-plots to be incorporated into a short story. You need to keep the conflict, action, and goal faced by your character at the center of attention.

The Theme

While you may have several themes that you wish to convey in a novel, love, friendship, pessimism, hopelessness or hope, or justice, among others, only include one theme in a short story. As with your characters, keep the structure simple and amplify your words. 

The Constraints and Pluses in Short Stories

  • The obvious constraint in a short story is the number of words available to tell your tale. There is little room for backstory or details that you have some leeway to include in a novel. This leads to a plus in that you are forced to be cognizant of finding the precise words to use, such as strong action verbs and the fewest number of words to convey a thought, giving you experience in word selection and editing.
  • Telling a story is not as effective as showing the action, and short stories provide an excellent experience for you to master the art of showing what is happening. Replacing dialog tags with action beats will save extraneous words and help create the show that you need.
  • Learning to craft a short story will help with structuring stronger chapters in a longer work.

Whether you are intending on publishing your short stories independently, in an anthology, through a publication, in a contest, or for your enjoyment, by following these tips, you will create a well-crafted story.

Resources

http://bookcritics.org/blog/archive/a-brief-history-of-the-short-story-in-america

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/short-storiesWU! Workshop:

 

Authors’ Words – Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Prolific author Neil Gaiman was born and raised in England but moved to the United States in 1992, where he continues to reside outside Minneapolis. He is well known as a master storyteller working in a variety of mediums who mixes modern reality with the fantastic.

Gaiman began his career as a freelance journalist, writing for various British newspapers and magazines. He later moved into many other areas of writing, including comic books, screenplays, fiction, young adult novels, children’s books and nonfiction. Gaiman’s critically acclaimed comic book series The Sandman ran for 75 issues, from 1989 until 1996. The Sandman was later collected into a series of 10 graphic novels. In addition to creating The Sandman series, Gaiman has been called upon to reimagine other comic creators’ works, including The Eternals miniseries for Marvel Comics and an issue of Spawn for Image Comics. The Sandman series inspired a number of spin-off series by other writers as well as spin-offs by Gaiman, including Death: The High Cost of Living.

Gaiman’s fiction includes Neverwhere, which was originally conceived as a BBC television miniseries; Good Omens, a humorous novel about the apocalypse co-written with Terry Pratchett, who is known for his comic fantasy Discworld series; the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions; and American Gods, which garnered numerable awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, SFX and Locus.

The many awards Gaiman has won give evidence of his talent and popularity. His young adult novel The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Medal in 2009. Coraline won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers. In 2000, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters won a Bram Stoker award for Best Illustrated Narrative. Issue #19 of The Sandman, entitled A Midsummer Night’s Dream, won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction.

Resources:

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/neil_gaiman_461447

Please note: Image from the Internet… no source available. Credit to photographer. Bio from the Chicago Public Library Site.

Authors’ Words: Mark Twain

Mark Twain Biography

Born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens would start a life that would be filled with great satire short stories. However, later in life he would go by his pseudonym, Mark Twain. A few years after his birth, he would move to Hannibal, MO. Like most boys his age, Twain was filled adventure and curiosity. He would wander through the woods and write down what he saw. After a while he started to work for his brother as a writer for one of his papers, Orion Clemens. He would then submit his first known writing to a Boston magazine. The piece was called Carpet-Bag.
Twain would then start to travel up down the Mississippi river, stopping here and there to submit writings to local newspapers while he is on his travels. In 1857, he would meet a man named Horace Bixby who was a riverboat captain. There Twain would be Bixby’s first mate for two years while they would travel down the Mississippi. Twain enjoyed this so much that he got his own pilot’s license. His adventures would come to an end when the Civil War was happening. Twain then decided to join the Confederate Army for a brief stint. After the war, he would move out to Nevada where is brother, Orion received a government job for helping Abraham Lincoln’s campaign for the presidency. While there, Twain didn’t get along with one of the other journalists and the other journalist wanted to resolve it through a duel, but Twain decided to flee to San Francisco to avoid legal conflictions. He would then travel along the western part of the country for a few years contributing stories such as The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. After that, he would get on a boat that would take him to Europe and the middle east. During this travel, he would compile and complete his book The Innocents Abroad.
Over the next years, he would do some more traveling and eventually end up living in Connecticut. During this time he would publish stories such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He would pass into the afterlife in 1910 at the age of 75. Heart disease was later named the cause of death. People raved at Twain’s writing when he was walking on this earth. Still today people can’t get enough of his writing. Twain is truly one of the great faces of American literature.

Resources:

https://celebratedjumpingfrog.wordpress.com/

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (baptized David Henry Thoreau) was born on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, to John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar. He was the third of four children. He was named after a recently deceased paternal uncle, David Thoreau, but since everyone always called him Henry, he eventually changed his name to Henry David, although he never petitioned to make a legal name change. Henry’s father was a businessman and active in the Concord Fire Society. His mother spent her time raising Henry and his three siblings, Helen, John and Sophia. 

Portrait of a young Thoreau
young Thoreau

When Thoreau was sixteen, he entered Harvard College, where he was known as a serious though unconventional scholar. Henry’s older siblings, Helen and John, Jr., were both schoolteachers. When it was decided that their brother should go to Harvard, as had his grandfather before him, they contributed from their teaching salaries to help pay his expenses. While at college, Thoreau studied Latin and Greek grammar and composition, and took classes in a wide variety of subjects, including mathematics, English, history, philosophy, and four different modern languages. During his Harvard years he was exposed to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who later became his chief mentor and friend. 

After graduating in 1837 and into the early 1840s Thoreau was occupied as a schoolteacher and tutor. A canoe trip in 1839 convinced him that he should not persue a schoolteacher’s career but should instead aim to become established as a poet of nature. In 1841 he was invited to live in the Emerson household, where he remained intermittently until 1843. He served as handyman and assistant to Emerson, helping to edit and contributing poetry and prose to the transcendentalist magazine, The Dial

Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond
cabin at Walden

Thoreau came to consider that he needed time and space to apply himself as a writer and on July 4, 1845, he moved into a small self-built house in a second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond. He stayed there for two years, two months and two days, sometimes traveling into Concord for supplies and eating with his family about once a week. Friends and family also visited him at his cabin, where he spent nearly every night. While at Walden, Thoreau did an incredible amount of reading and writing, and also spent much time sauntering in nature. 

In July 1846, when Thoreau went into town to have a pair of shoes repaired, he was arrested for refusing to pay a poll tax meant to support America’s war in Mexico. He spent a night in jail. His most famous essay, Civil Disobedience (published 1849), which in its call for passive resistance to unjust laws was to inspire Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., was a result of this experience. The journal he kept at Walden became the source of his most famous book, Walden, Or Life in the Woods (1854), in which he set forth his ideas on how an individual should best live to be attuned to his own nature as well as to nature itself. 

Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1847. After that, he resided again in Emerson’s house (1847–49) and then for the rest of his life in his family home. He occasionally worked at the pencil factory and did some surveying work. He also traveled to Canada, Cape Cod, and Maine – landscapes that inspired his “excursion” books – A Yankee in CanadaCape Cod, and The Maine Woods. By the 1850s he had become greatly concerned over slavery, and, having met John Brown in 1857, wrote passionately in his defence. 

Aware that he was dying of tuberculosis, Thoreau cut short his travels and returned to Concord, where he prepared some of his journals for publication. Although he never earned a substantial living by his writings, his works fill 20 volumes. 

Thoreau died of tuberculosis on May 6, 1862, at the age of 44. He is buried on Authors’ Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. 

Resources: http://www.thoreau-online.org/henry-david-thoreau-biography.htm

Authors Words: Stan Lee

QUOTES: “As far as I’m concerned, a really great comic-book story is every bit as creative and important as a great story done in any other form of the media.”—Stan Lee

Stan Lee Biography

Television Producer, Producer, Author, Editor, Publisher (1922–2018)

Stan Lee was a revered comic-book creator who co-launched superheroes like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and the X-Men for Marvel Comics.

Born in New York City on December 28, 1922, Stan Lee went on to work for the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. With artist Jack Kirby, Lee launched the superhero team the Fantastic Four in 1961, and was soon responsible for creating popular characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk and Thor. Lee later worked in a number of comic-related business and multimedia ventures.

Early Life and Career

Stanley Martin Lieber was born on December 28, 1922, in New York City to Romanian immigrants Celia and Jack Lieber. With part of his childhood spent during the Great Depression, Lieber and his younger brother, Larry, watched his parents struggle to make ends meet for the family.

Lieber, who later shortened his name to “Lee” as a writer, went on to be hired as an office assistant at Timely Comics in 1939 and became an interim editor for the company in the early 1940s. Lee also served domestically in the Army during World War II, working as a writer and illustrator.

Co-creating the Fantastic Four

In the early ’60s, Lee was called upon by his boss to create a series for Marvel Comics(Timely’s new name) that could compete with rival DC Comics’ hit title Justice League of America. Citing writing influences like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne, and following the encouragement of his wife, Joan, Lee did away with some of the usual superhero conventions. Hence, with artist and co-creator Jack Kirby, the Fantastic Four was born in 1961. 

Hulk, Spider-Man and More Join Marvel’s Lineup

Following the success of the Fantastic Four, a slew of new characters soon sprung from Lee and his Marvel cohorts, including the Hulk, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Daredevil and the X-Men.

Lee was particularly known for his dynamism with copy and for imbuing his characters with a sense of humanity, tackling real-world issues like bigotry and drug use, which would influence comics for decades. An outgoing, humorous showman, he also developed a number of slogans as part of his shtick, including a Latin-derived call to rise, “Excelsior!”  

Marvel Comics became a highly popular franchise, and Stan Lee was promoted to editorial director and publisher in 1972. He later moved to the West Coast to be involved in Marvel’s film ventures and eventually became chairman emeritus.

Shepherding the Rise of a Blockbuster Industry

Lee has become involved in a variety of multimedia projects while also serving as an ambassador for Marvel, even though he has filed lawsuits against the company and been the subject of debate over appropriate compensation for comic creators. The writer has seen Marvel develop into an entity that has inspired blockbuster film entertainment like the Iron Man, X-MenThor and The Avengers franchises.

Lee started intellectual-property company POW! Entertainment in 2001 and the following year published his autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee. Later in the decade he received a Medal of Arts honor from President George W. Bush and launched the History Channel show Stan Lee’s Superhumans, a series that looked at people with remarkable skills and abilities.

2012 saw more new ventures. Lee co-wrote a graphic novel, Romeo and Juliet: The War, which landed on The New York Times‘ best-seller list and launched a YouTube channel, Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, which features comic, comedy and sci-fi content. At the end of the year, the ever-active Lee turned 90.

Later Health Problems, Legal Battles & Death

Lee endured the loss of his wife of nearly 70 years, Joan, in July 2017. He then gave fans a scare when he checked into a hospital for an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath the following January. However, the comic book titan was discharged shortly afterward, and announced he was ready to resume a full schedule with the latest Marvel feature, Black Panther, soon to be released. 

Although things seemed to be humming along nicely for Lee and the Marvel universe, an April 2018 feature in The Hollywood Reporter painted a far different story. According to the publication, Lee’s daughter J.C. and other insiders were engaged in a battle over care of the 95-year-old and the future of his estate, the sides pitting Lee against one another and inducing him to dismiss formerly trusted associates. The piece also described J.C.’s tempestuous relationship with Lee, including an incident in which she physically assaulted both of her elderly parents.  

Resources:

Lee died on November 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

https://www.biography.com/people/stan-lee-21101093