Write the poem only can write. ~ Billy Collins
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ~ E. L. Doctorow
Recommended Reading for Aspiring Writers by Stephen King
Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
Alex Garland, The Beach
Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Richard Russo, Mohawk
Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet.
Source: Open Culture
Kurt Vonnegut on Writing a Short Story
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Gillis played with sugar packets arranging and rearranging them. Pickle test tasted packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, barbecue sauce, and spicy mustard. Pickle was on his third round of packets and began slurping the entire packet. Gillis said, “You’re hungry.”
“I didn’t say anything, Gills. How’d you know?”
“Wild guess. Let’s nose around, Dill. We’ll walk up to the buffet bar. Remember what Do Re said about the food. Look but don’t touch. You remember what we’re looking for?”
Pickle’s eyes sparkled. He was back in third grade and he knew the answer, “I sure do, Gills. I looking for senior trying to sneak extra food off the buffet to take home.”
Gillis, always sensitive to Pickle’s desire to be right, said, “Right on target, Dill. While you’re at it, if you notice anyone with only one cufflink, let me know. Take your time at the buffet bar. We’ll talk after Do Re brings us our pizzas.”
Pickle puffed up more brightly than a peacock. “I’m on it. Do you mind if I go to the restroom first?”
Gillis shrugged, “I’ll wait.” He continued rearranging sugar and sugar substitute packets.
Five minutes later Pickle returned. He slid into his chair. He bent toward Gillis and whispered, “I found some unexpected information that may help us with this case.”
Gillis nodded and signaled Pickle to continue.
Pickle reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He read it, “Call Sara at 555-6767 if you want a good time.”
“How’s this going to help us?” asked Gillis.
“Sara might have seen something. Do you mind if I call her and question her alone tonight?”
“Go for it. Let me know if you had a good time. Let’s head to the buffet bar,” said Gillis.
Gillis and Pickle stood in the buffet line behind fifteen seniors. Eight of the seniors were pushing walkers. Each of the eight walkers had a built in tray device. The seniors with walkers placed two large plates on their tray device. The remaining seven seniors had baby pouches strapped to their chests and carried a single plate.
“What is it, Dill?”
“Are the seniors afraid the Golden Wok is going to run out of food? Why are they stuffing food into the baby pouches? Why do they need two plates? Watch out, one of the seniors is trying to pull his walker out of line and take a cut near the front of the line. Another senior with a walker is swearing at him. They’re swinging their walkers at each other. Should we step in?”
“Ignore it, Dill. When seniors fight over food, the early bird special, coupons, you need backup. We’re not wearing our Kevlar vests. If they take hostages, we’ll call in the SWAT team. You see that? Beautiful move, He faked swinging his walker, and squirted the guy in face with his urine sack.”
The guy who got squirted, “I’m going to sue. I just had my cataracts removed.”
The guy who did the squirting, “You sue and I’ll ban you from playing bingo.”
Gillis said, “I saw something on Unsolved Mysterious on cable about seniors at buffets, Dill. The world’s greatest scientists can’t figure it out. The scientists point out for every ten seniors who head to buffets only seven survive.”
“They got a seven in ten chance, Gills. Those are good odds given the price. Five ninety-nine for all you can eat. I heard a senior say he eats enough so he doesn’t have to eat for two days.”
Twenty minutes later Gillis and Pickle made it through the buffet and back to their table. Two pizzas boxes were on the table. “See anything unusual, Dill?”
I saw a senior stuffing her handbag with chicken wings. Then she started packing food in her cheeks like a squirrel as she went through the buffet.”
“That’s normal according to the scientists. Once you pass a certain age, all you think about is food, how to interfere in your kids lives, and what the neighbors are doing. I meant about our case,” said Gillis.
“Can’t say I did. How about you?” asked Pickle picking out a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza.
“Don’t eat the pizza,” said Gillis.
“Why?” asked Pickle holding a grease laden piece of pepperoni pizza inches from his mouth.
“I’ll tell you in a minute. Put the pizza down carefully and wipe your hands on your shirt. I think I solved the case,” said Gillis watching the grease drip off of Pickle’s slice and slide down his chin and dripping onto his shirt.
“Something bothering you, Gills? What are you thinking about? You buried your face in your hands. What am I missing Gills? Who’s the killer? What tipped you off?”