George Saunders on Fiction

The wonderful thing about fiction: the meaning of a story is contained in the way it unscrolls, in the experience the reader has, phrase by phrase. Everything else—the analysis we tend to feel the need to do—is reductive (fun, but reductive). The reading experience, when you think about it, is so complex and lovely and hard to describe: ideas come up and are complicated and refined by the next beat; moral notions arise and are challenged; the language surprises; parallel images from our own life are continually invoked; questions that, in our everyday mode, we’d be more simply opinionated about are endorsed and negated and complicated. All this happens at once, and in a granulated way that’s impossible to describe. I think it’s important to be respectful of how mysterious the whole deal is: a person being moved by a story another person made up. It’s weird but it happens and it can really change people’s lives. I think fiction at its best can serve as a moment of induced bafflement that calls into question our usual relation to things and reminds us that our minds, as nice as they are, aren’t necessarily up to the task of living, and shouldn’t get cocky. ~ George Saunders



50 things to keep in mind when writing (41-50)

Writing tips useful ,indful

Quick Mindful Tips

41.) Vivid moment – some reflection of moment by adult


43.) Each paragraph ratchets up tension

44.) Inhabit story – reader takes part in story

45.) Crisis is to Drama as Insight is to Memoir

46.) Narrative distance – description of time/space, both in the moment and reflective

47.) Dropped into a world that’s already spinning

48.) Things that generate the feeling are meditated upon

49.) Mask what you’re not good at – Veer toward your strengths

50.) Compressed amount of time

Which one(s) were your favorite(s)? Please comment. Don’t be shy. I don’t bite.

50 things to keep in mind when writing (31-40)

Writing tips useful ,indful

Quick Mindful Tips

31.) Sensory details

32.) Specific concrete language replaces summary abstraction

33.) Try to describe how story works, what it does, and how it is rendered.


35.) Is the writer in full control of the language

36.) Where does it go off the rails?

37.) What different choices in craft to improve

38.) Moments in story

39.) Little things change it so much

40) What to leave in, what to take out.

To be continued…

50 things to keep in mind when writing (21-30)

Writing tips useful ,indful

Quick Mindful Tips

21.) Narrator as observer

22.) Camera held by you v. camera is on her

23.) Show don’t tell with concrete detail

24.) Overview – summary – recounts but doesn’t recreate

25.) Tone – use of language and voice to vividly render world

26.) Must move toward point of story

27.) Representative setting and atmosphere

28.) Render situation vividly – the situation of the story and the purpose of writing it (Think editorially and critically.)

29.) Theme – what is the situation? what is the conflict?

30.) What engine drives the story?

To be continued…

50 things to keep in mind when writing (11-20)

Writing tips useful ,indful

Quick Mindful Tips

11.) When?

12.) Where?

13.) Why?

14.) How?

15.) Need the ending to write the beginning

16.) Revise as you figure out what it is about and what is integral to the story

17.) Construct a version of yourself that will work for the story

18.) Associative aspect – more essay-like than story-like

19.) “Drama of Consciousness”

20.) Voice = percussion

Check back for more

50 things to keep in mind when writing

Quick Mindful Tips

1.) Conflict is in the middle of the rising action

2.) Circumstantial and internal conflict

3.) Situational conflict is built to clarify the emotional conflict

4.) Text and subtext

5.) To get to the truth of the matter

6.) Narrative distance – in the moment or person now older looking back

7.) Narrative distance collapses when in the moment

8.) Create backstory as setup

9.) Who?

10.) What?

  • More to come – check back.

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