Writers Who Read
#23

6 September 2020

Agenda



  • Why We're Here

  • Literary Forensics
  •     - What do I bring?
  •     - What do I feel?
  •     - What do I notice?
  •     - What do I want to learn?

  • Next Month's Reading & Study


Why We're Here

We Writers want to improve our craft

by Reading like a Writer

through Literary Forensics training

we learn from each other

Roundtable Rules

Always refer back to the book

We practice active listening & serendipity

Every feeling and observation is valid...
but not every conclusion

Always refer back to the book

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Introductions

What do I bring
to this book?

Today's author: Elizabeth Strout

  • Born in Portland, Maine

  • Admires the short stories of William Trevor

  • 1st of her 7 novels published at age 42


  • - Amy and Isabelle (1998) - made into a movie; nominated for Orange Prize & PEN/Faulkner Award
  • - Abide with Me (2006)
  • - Olive Kitteridge (2008) - Pulitzer Prize, HBO miniseries
  • - The Burgess Boys (2013)
  • - My Name is Lucy Barton (2016) [only novel in 1st person]
  • - Anything is Possible (2017) - The Story Prize
Why a collection of short stories?

"She's an awful lot to take. If I was a reader I wouldn’t want to see Olive on every single page.” - Elizabeth Strout

“When I go to the page...I suspend judgement on my characters, and that’s so freeing.” - Elizabeth Strout
“...I don’t write from beginning to end...and I have learned over the years to write in scenes. And that the scenes, if they’re good enough, will eventually connect with each other. So I never worry about plot, ‘cause it just will happen. And it’s also just an awful word.”
- Elizabeth Strout

Strout cares about words (say them three times and they're yours)


    Rump / hind end
    Poopy Panties
    Dopey-dope
    Flub-dub
    Snot-wots
    Hells bells
    Frenchie / Franco / peasant
    Mousey
    Phooey to you!
    Godfrey
    Ay-yuh
    Farts ("Oh, Jack, you know I hate that word.")
  • A particular word used for comedic effect

    And then she said, “Oh, shit. Honest to Christ,” she said. “For fuck’s sake.” The woman’s face went away. “Yoo-hoo,” said Olive. “Hey, yoo-hoo. Excuse me, I have no idea why I said ‘shit.’ I never say ‘shit.’ I hate the word ‘shit.’ ” No one seemed to hear this, though she could hear voices nearby. “All right,” said Olive, “I’m going back now.” She closed her eyes, but the beeping continued. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said.

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

What do I feel?

What in the book elicited that feeling?

Every feeling and observation is valid...
but every conclusion should be questioned

We practice serendipity
- nothing is too crazy

Always refer back to the book

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

What do I notice?


  •    • Language and Grammar

  •    • Context

  •    • Point of view

  •    • Character & character development

  •    • Horizontal structure

  •    • Pacing

  •    • Layering of themes

  •    • Overall effect

Miniplot

  • A mini-plot story is a tale that follows a protagonist through predominantly internal antagonism. They have inner demons that plague their lives, and the success of the narrative hinges on whether or not they can defeat them (or rather, whether or not the climax is reached). Believe it or not, the conflict doesn’t always have to be resolved; it just has to be closed — positive or negative.

  • The structure tends to be more fractured than that of an arch-plot. Writers have more freedom and play a lot more with flashbacks and flash-forwards than they do in arch-plots. That’s because the mini-plot is more complex in its structure and telling — the flashes here and there help to add to this complexity.
  • 1. Arrested (Jack)
  • 2. Labor (Ashley’s baby delivered at Marlene’s house (daughter’s party))
  • 3. Cleaning (Kayley, Brenda / Bertha Babcock, Mrs. Ringrose, Miss Minnie (nursing home))
  • 4. Motherless Child (Christopher-Ann; Little Henry, Theodore) Maine/NYC
  • 5. Helped (Suzanne Larkin; brother Doyle (murderer) atty: Bernie Green)
  • 6. Light (Cindy Coombs (cancer))
  • 7. The Walk (Danny Pelletier/Marie) – 50% saves drug addict’s life (Woodcock boy)
  • 8. Pedicure (drive to Shirley Falls; Elaine (Jack’s ex-flame))
  • 9. Exiles (Jim & Helen Burgess | Bob & Rev. Margaret) [The Burgess Boys]
  • 10. The Poet (Andrea L’Rieux)
  • 11. The End of the Civil War Days (Fergus MacPherson, Ethel -> Lisa (dominatrix), Laurie)
  • 12. Heart (home nurses: Betty (trumper), Halima Butterfly (Somali))
  • 13. Friend (Isabelle . . . other characters return...)

POV - Transitions within voice

  • (within Heart chapter)

  • (...and then Strout got scared she went too far...)
  • Strout making it clear this is Olive's voice, not hers

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Olive, Again - Stats

  • Marketing: Saga Fiction, Literary Saga, Humorous Literary Fiction
  • Genre: Realistic Modern-Day Mini-Plot Long-Form
  • Word count: 94,264
  • Print Pages: 293
  • Reading Level: 6th-7th grade

  • Tense: Past
  • POV: Multiple

  • Publish date: October 15, 2019
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Sold By: Random House

  •  

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Writers Who Read: Coming Up

October 4: The Testaments (Canada, 2019) - Margaret Atwood
November 1: Weather (USA, 2020) - Jenny Offill
December 6: The Nickel Boys (USA, 2019) - Colson Whitehead



Thanks to: Boulder Writers Alliance

Contact Gary: hello@garyalanmcbride.com
Literary Forensics Resources

Happy
Sleuthing!