Bullet in the Brain :: Tobias Wolff

Anders couldn’t get to the bank until just before it closed, so of course the line was endless and he got stuck behind two women whose loud, stupid conversation put him in a murderous temper. He was never in the best of tempers anyway, Anders — a book critic known for the weary, elegant savagery with which he dispatched almost everything he reviewed.

With the line still doubled around the rope, one of the bank tellers stuck a “POSITION CLOSED” sign in her window and walked to the back of the bank, where she leaned against a desk and began to pass the time with a man shuffling papers. The women in front of Anders broke off their conversation and watched the teller with hatred. “Oh, that’s nice,” one of them said. She turned to Anders and added, confident of his accord, “One of those little human touches that keep us coming back for more.”

Anders had conceived his own towering hatred of the teller, but he immediately turned it on the Continue reading

Fiction Writers on Writing Fiction

There are a few lucky souls for whom the whole process of writing is easy, for whom the smell of fresh paper is better than air, whose minds chuckle over their own agility, who forget to eat, and who consider the world at large an intrusion on their good time at the keyboard. But you and I are not among them. We are in love with words except when we have to face them. We are caught in a guilty paradox in which we grumble over lack of time, and when we have the time, we sharpen pencils, check emails, or clip the hedges.

Of course, there’s also joy. We write for the satisfaction of having wrestled a sentence to the page, for the flush of discovering an image, for the excitement of seeing a character come alive…

[Excerpt from Jane Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft]

I believe the secret of writing is that fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer’s courage. The best fiction comes from the place where the terror hides, the edge of our worst stuff. I believe, absolutely, that if you do not break out in that sweat of fear when you write, then you have not gone far enough. And I know you can fake that courage when you don’t think of yourself as courageous — because I have done it. And that is not a bad thing, to fake it until you can make it. I know that until I started pushing on my own fears, telling the stories that were hardest for Continue reading