Today’s lesson from faculty member Richard Panek: “Everything counts in art. And writing is no exception. Every choice. Every word. Every piece of punctuation. Every paragraph break. Everything. Everything is a choice, and everything needs to be there for a reason.”
If you were a writer or a reader of a certain age—say, under 30, or even 40—in the early 1980s, and you were interested in short stories, Raymond Carver was a constant topic of discussion. He was the most prominent representative of a style that was also a constant topic of discussion. It was commonly called minimalism, though I always preferred the term miniaturism. “Minimalism” suggested minimalizing, whereas, at least in my interpretation, the power of the style was to reveal a new world, only in miniature. It relied on contrasts: the lean text and the rich subtext, the surface cool hiding a kind of hellfire, the emotional distance that, seemingly paradoxically, suggests a raw-to-the-marrow fear. In short (or miniature): complex effects through the fewest strokes.
I’m finishing a book at the moment, and I recently discovered that I hate a chapter title. Hate it. Loathe it. Despise it. Hate hate hate it. Were it alive, I would kill it, then do everything in my power to bring it back to life, just so I could kill it again.