Alone With All That Could Happen is a collection of 7 craft essays by writer David Jauss. I had read some of them when they were first published in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle, but it was time to read them again. I should probably schedule time to reread craft essays because I can’t ever get it all. Or, because I’m writing in third person this time, something else falls into place that I didn’t notice when I was working on first person…
Here are a few of the words from this book that have made a difference in my writing:
…imagining the other is ultimately a way of discovering the self.
Perhaps the most important purpose of point of view is to manipulate the degree of distance between the characters and the reader…
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Flow”
Thus, altering our syntax…allows us to get our thoughts off the normal track on which they run…so if we change the way we think, we can sometimes change what we think.
“Remembrance of Things Present: Present Tense in Contemporary Fiction”
We use the generalized present to talk about an act that is repeated throughout time, as in the sentence “I write every morning.” The tense is present, but the events described are not. Hence they are unmoored from their actual places in time.
…the best epiphanies approach their revelations indirectly, through imagery, metaphor, and symbol rather than through direct statement. In short, they arrive with some elusiveness, like insight itself.
“Stacking Stories: Building a Unified Short Story Collection”
Because our choices of words, characters, and plots arise from our own obsessive concerns and themes, from our own individual selves, it is inevitable that there be unifying relationships between the stories. But we must discover them and then, to heighten their effects, strategically add connecting details, parallels, contrasts, repetitions…
And finally, this excerpt from the last essay in the collection, possibly my favorite because it’s about process and it’s a way of thinking about writing that had never occurred to me before, “Lever of Transcendence: Contradiction and The Physics of Creativity.”
My students don’t hesitate when I ask them to write their actual names, but they do when I ask them to make up fictitious ones. The creative process, I tell them, resides in that hesitation, that moment of uncertainty.