Tag Archives: writing

An Update of Sorts

Hi readers,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted so I figured I’d put out an update post. No writing tips here or new work, but I will be posting a satire I wrote later this week.

I have three updates:

  1. I started an MFA in creative writing this summer, so I’m currently writing from Lisbon, the location of my summer residency. I’ve learned a lot over the past two weeks and I look forward to sharing my observations.fashion-coffee-time-lifestyle-medium
  2. I plan on refocusing this blog. I’ve gone back and forth with it, but I’ve decided to get back into writing satire. Most of my early readers appreciated my satirical approach, and as a result, those were my most popular posts.
  3. I recently edited and revised my self-published books. As a whole, the four books went on a decent run when I first published them, but I’d still like to reach more readers. Each book has been polished and I’ve added the satirical layer found in the fourth book, the annotations by the EJO scholar McCarthy Gables, to the first three books. One of the benefits in self-publishing is that it allows for revising and re-editing. With that said, this should be the last time that I’ll look at these. If you’d like a copy of the final versions they are on sale right now. Feel free to click the links below:


Farmers and Cannibals

But the Angels Never Came

Just After the Fall

The Church Peak Hotel: Revisited


And thanks!





Fictionalize It!: Part 1

Howdy folks and folkettes,

This week I’m starting a three part series on fictionalizing every day experiences. Why? Well, because that’s what writers do and I think ya’ll might benefit from seeing how I take a real event or story and transform it into fiction. Let’s face it: fiction writers take their own experiences or experiences from others and turn them into stories. These things don’t come out of thin air.

So, to start it off, I’ve written a literary version of one of my own experiences, sticking to the actual event and experience as truthfully as possible. Next week, I’ll look back at the “real” version of the story and rewrite it by changing the setting, characters, narrator, plot structure, and genre. And then finally, I’ll invite you folks to submit your own fictionalized version of the story. So, here it is, the “real” version of the story.



“What the—”

I looked past the railing of the back deck to the little rock oak in the woods. On the ground beside the tree, I saw the weathered white of the birdfeeder. Dropping my kindle on the table next to the chair I got up, passed through the gate at the top of the stairs, walked through burned-up grass past the ugly hill of dirt and weeds and rock still there from when the yard was graded.20150809_190542_resized

“Too much damn seed,” I said out loud. Yea that’s right. I talk to myself when I’m alone. Who doesn’t?

I picked up the birdfeeder and thought of that time a year ago when the face board of the front porch rotted out because the bird seed fell in the crack between—well, the crack between the face board and the board behind it. I don’t know what that one’s called. Who cares.

“We’ll need to find a new place for it,” I had said to my wife. I swore and talked to myself as I routed out the rotten wood and filled it with epoxy.

“It’ll be better out there in the woods,” I had said when I came in from patching the hole. “I’ll attach one of those—what do you call ‘em, little arm things right to that tree.” I pointed through bathroom window.

“We won’t be able to see it then,” she had said.

I shook my head. “You’ll see it fine from the back deck. Unobstructed view. I’ll screw it right to the tree.”

And that’s what I did.

A year later I squatted beside the feeder next to the tree. I took off the top and dumped some seed on the ground. I hung it back up on the arm-thingy attached to the tree and walked back up to the back deck to my chair and my book.

An hour or so passed. My wife walked out and my daughter was napping. “Hey,” she said. “Hey. Look at him!”

She pointed towards the feeder. It was some yellow and black bird. I don’t know the name. But I wasn’t thinking of the name either. I thought of the screw in the tree and how some folks say it’s harmful. I thought of the wood rotting out on the front porch. I thought of all the destruction we cause in caring for things that don’t notice us. I looked up towards my smiling wife noticing the bird on the feeder. I looked back over at the bird.

It isn’t the bird, after all, that I’m caring for.


And that’s my story. Check me out next week for the rewrite.

Bad Writing Advice

We’ve all received bad writing advice at some point or another. Usually, the advice starts with one of the following: “always do this” or “never do that.” I actually work with someone who tells her students that they should “never use the word ‘that'”. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows THAT I don’t believe in limiting our choices when it comes to expression. I think it’s best to know how and why certain words, literary techniques, literary devices, etc. are used so that we CAN use them when it’s appropriate or when it serves our artistic purposes. untitled (5)So, to help battle against all the bad advice out there, I’ve made a list of literary “TRUTHS” that aren’t actually–well, true. Here’s the list of bad advice:

  • Never use personal pronouns when you can use a characters name
  • Don’t end a sentence with the word “it”
  • Never use digression
  • Never use flashback
  • Every character should be well-developed
  • Never place a comma after a prepositional phrase when it begins a sentence and is under 5 words
  • Never use an oxford comma
  • Always use an oxford comma
  • Always use the word “and” before the last item in a list
  • Never use sentence fragments
  • Never use dialect
  • Spell everything “correctly”
  • Don’t use a “hard” period
  • Don’t write in short sentences
  • Don’t write in long sentences
  • Don’t ever use flowery language
  • Avoid using plain or simple language
  • Don’t be repetitive
  • Always describe your settings in detail, so the reader can see what it looks like
  • Don’t ever bore your reader by describing the setting. Let them picture it for themselves
  • Always attribute your dialogue so the reader knows who is speaking
  • And most importantly, don’t ever use the word “that”

Well, I hope this list is helpful, and the next time you hear someone sharing one of these literary truisims, don’t be afraid to question them: “Why can’t I do ‘THAT'”



Leaves in Spring Time

Hey folks,

I decided to post some of my short fiction here on my blog. And now that my short writing break is over, I’ll be posting regularly again. The story below is called “Leaves in Spring Time.” Enjoy, and feel free to share, comment, and so on.


I stretched the tarp back out along the ditch beside the road in front of my house. It was the inside so it wasn’t blue. It was silver, the tarp that is.

But colors don’t matter. I picked the rake back up and dragged the leaves up and out of the ditch. The gray dust underneath puffed or swirled depending on how you look at it. I dropped the head of the rake back in the ditch and pulled back up. I dropped it and pulled back up.

The section was done but the tarp wasn’t covered yet, so I put the rake down and slid the tarp over to the next section. Then I did the same thing pulling the leaves up and out of the ditch.

The section was half-done, but the tarp was filled-up, so I folded each of the corners in and each of the corners that form from folding in corners until the leaves were trapped inside. And then I walked down past the driveway and walked into the woods and walked down the hill a bit past the point where the leaves might blow back into the yard and found the pile I started earlier or the year before depending on how you look at it and held onto the back of the tarp and let all the corners loose and looked away as leaves fell out onto the pile.

Dust floated from the tarp when I shook it. But I wasn’t looking. I looked earlier, the first time but I wasn’t looking anymore. e6b9fd047d000f182bccda92e03d048a

As I walked back up and saw the house, I looked for that spot by the white oak, the one in the middle of the yard, where my wife was sitting earlier. She wasn’t there, but as I continued up the hill, I saw her. She was next to the driveway and my little girl was there with a little kid-sized rake.

“She wants to help.”

I must’ve smiled. I don’t talk much.

I wiped sweat from my eyes and put my hand on my little girl’s head. She followed me over to that spot I left off at and started raking the leaves with her little rake. She did it indiscriminately, moving them here and there if you understand what I mean.

So then I put the tarp down and started pulling the leaves up and out of the ditch and my wife didn’t ask but I started explaining anyway, “Not sure why I do it,” I said as I pulled up leaves onto the tarp. “It’s a bigger pain—” I looked down at my little girl. She was still raking. “It’s a bigger pain gettin’ out the blower for it since it’s just the leaves here in the ditch. Never takes more than an hour but I—I never like doing it—somethin’ about dealing with leaves in spring time that just doesn’t—I don’t know—It doesn’t seem like somethin’ I wanna be doin’.”

I wanted her ask something like, “why don’t you leave ‘em there?” But she doesn’t think to ask that sorta question. So I answered like she asked it.

“I guess I worry about getting that thing—” I pointed to the gutter running underneath the driveway, “that thing—whatever you call it, jammed up with leaves so the water can’t run through.”

She nodded her head.

“I don’t know if it matters—just seems like I shouldn’t let the leaves wash down in there…”

The tarp was half-full when I said that. I stopped talking for a minute and my little girl stepped back as I slid the tarp over to the last section.thY54M3G5J

“I don’t know if it matters,” I said picking up on a train of thought that has existed since the beginning of man, “I don’t know but I’ll do it anyway just in case.”

And in that moment I looked down. My little girl wasn’t just raking the leaves randomly anymore. She was picking them up, only a few at time because she’s only two and not very coordinated, and she was putting those leaves on the tarp.

Send me your firstborn! I’ll feature your excerpt

Hi folks,

Next week I’ll be writing a post on the common writing errors we all made when we first started–well, writing. thE6RXNWOLPersonally, I know I’ve come along way since my first novel and I still cringe when I look back at my first attempts at describing a setting, a character, or even a feeling. Back then, I used too many adverbs, I over-explained, and I made choices with spelling that could be described as either unconventional or flat out wrong depending on who you ask. If you have an example of your early writing that you wouldn’t mind sharing, please send me an excerpt. I can’t do this without you, and I’d like to feature as many authors as I can. Here’s how you submit:

  • Send an e-mail to Ejamesolson1@gmail.com with the following:
  • Your name
  • Your  excerpt (200 words or less…less is better) pasted in the body of the email (Sorry, but I’m not opening attachments. I’m dreadfully afraid of viruses)
  • (OPTIONAL) A short explanation of why it was bad or what was wrong with it or what you learned from it
  • Title the subject line with the word “Submission Bad Writing” followed by your name. Like this: “Submission Bad Writing Charles Dickens”

thM9HIJKJFI respond to all submissions and will let you know if your excerpt has been selected. All genres are welcome, but remember that the focus is on making bad writing better. If I decide to feature your excerpt, I’ll include a link to your blog, Goodreads page, or Amazon page,  a great opportunity for anyone looking to increase their visibility. Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you!

How to Write an Ugly Character

Good evening folks. As you’re  aware I’ve been sharing a lot of other people’s writing lately. But tonight I figured I’d show off some of my own fiction. The excerpt below is from an unpublished novel I wrote. I chose this as an example of how to create an ugly character. “Big” Jim, the character described below, was my attempt at creating the ugliest character possible. He’s intolerant, racist, sexist, abusive, and uses terribly offensive language. th6SFZ10U9But before you read it, I’d like to mention three important things to keep in mind. First, even though I created him, I don’t condone anything he says or does. Second, in my life I have met people very similar to him. People like “Big” Jim exist in the real world and I’m going for realism here. Third,  you’ll likely notice that his strange speech patterns and mispronounced words seem grating. Although this is set in the Eastern Panhandle, he still speaks a little strange.  This is done purposefully to put the reader on edge. You might also notice a preponderance of hard syllables. This gives the passage a cacophonous and unsettling sound. Hope this gives you ideas for the next time you sit down to write an ugly character.



from From A to B

“Big” Jim is 6’2” and three-hundred pounds. His head is round and balding gray. He shaves it to keep it “lookin’ neat”. His face is red and bloated; he looks at your chest and then down in front of him and then your chest when he’s talking to you. His eyes are always shifting, and he always has something dangerously attractive to say.


Well, let me tell you about it.

That son-in-law-uh mine, Gene, that is, he pulled up just ‘round five or six. It was Friday night and I could already feel my hand shakin’ if you know what I mean.

So, I went right ahead and just popped one open. Figured-uh beer would do the trick just fine. Didn’t need to start mixin’ the liquor drinks just yet. It’d be a late night I figured, and I didn’t want to get all crazed up too damn early.

Teresa, my old lady, she wasn’t set to get back from the vet clinic for another hour and Gene was just unloadin’ his shit, so I figured I’d just set right there on my own sippin’ my beer till the family was ‘bout ready to join me. I’ve found that when I’m throwin’ a party, it’s always best to start drinkin’ ‘fore the crowd gets settled. That way, when they see you there drinkin’, they’re liable to want to do some drinkin’ too. And then when other folks get there, they’ll see that everybody’s drinkin’, and that’ll get them thinkin’ “Hell, I could go for a drink myself.” One thing goes ahead and leads to another, and ‘fore you know, everyone’s there drinkin’ and carryin’ on and actin’ like it’s the god damn fourth of the god damn July. Know what I mean?

Course you do. Anyway, I’ll tell you how it was. Well, first of all, it’s wasn’t the Fourth of July. I said LIKE the Fourth of July. It was actually Memorial Day. Well, not the actual day. But the weekend that goes with the day. And I was excited. I got to admit that. You see, I knew Gene’s dick would be all hard because there hadn’t been any snow days earlier in the year, meaning that he only had a week left of work and then he’d be free for summer. Last time it happened that way, Gene drank so damn hard I almost died keepin’ up with him. Uh night to remember.

Well, like I was sayin’, I was just settin’ there on the porch sippin’ from my beer can. It was right out the cooler and goin’ down like water. Then Gene and that damn daughter uh-mine and that little boy uh-their’s came round the side of the house. Somethin’ was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somethin’ just wasn’t right. Gene’s mustache. He shaved it off. Now, I know what you’re thinkin’. You’re thinkin’ I’m some kinda fag for noticin’. But I didn’t really notice it, or its significance just then. Just then, all I noticed was that somethin’ was off.

He was holdin’ my daughter’s hand like a queer and that boy of theirs, he was standin’ there behind him.

“Gene, my boy, come on up here. I got a cold one right here in the cooler. It’s for you buddy boy.”

I went ahead and reached in the cooler for him. I was just so damn excited if you know what I mean. Well, I pulled out uh-beer for the boy and when I looked up he was still holdin’ the hand uh-my daughter like some type-uh fudge packin’ dick-lickin’ faggot. Just standin’ there while the beer I pulled out for him was burnin’ my damn hand with cold.

“Got your beer for you boy!” That’s what I said and he just kind-uh looked at me with this funny faggoty grin.

Well, that’s when that slut of-uh daughter-uh mine opened up her big damn mouth and started sayin’ somethin’ about Gene bein’ off the stuff, sayin’ that he ain’t drinkin’ no mo’.

“What kind-uh dick-lickin’…” I started to say but cut myself off when I saw that little shit of-uh boy-uh their’s lookin’ at me fawn-like.

“What the hell got into you woman?” I said to that no good daughter-uh mine. “What the hell! What did you do? What did you do to the boy? Gene, my boy, what the hell’d she do to you, boy?”

I could see right then that I had an effect on him. He wasn’t gonna budge right then. He couldn’t. But he looked at me. Then he looked at that slut of-uh daughter-uh mine. He looked back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and shit. And I knew it right then. Right then I knew his new attitude wasn’t at all set. Just a little coaxin’. That’s all it’d take. Just a little coaxin’.


That’s it. Let me know what you thought. And if you have an ugly character of your own, feel free to send me an excerpt for next week’s Writing as Art:


Thanks and have a good day

Send me Your Novel Excerpts!

Writing with Style takes submissions of novel excerpts and flash fiction to be featured on a new type of blog post, Writing as Art. If you are a writer interested in having your short fiction or excerpts from your longer fiction read and critiqued in a public forum, please send a brief e-mail to ejamesolson1@gmail.com . No need to pitch an idea or anything like that. Just a simple email will do. Make sure to include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your story or excerpt (750 words or less…less is better) pasted in the body of the email (Sorry, but I’m not opening attachments. I’m dreadfully afraid of viruses)
  • Title the subject line with the word “Submission” followed by the title of your story. Like this: “Submission: Godzilla vs. Batman”

I respond to all submissions and will let you know if your excerpt has been selected. All genres are welcome, but the focus is on the literary merit of each piece. If I decide to feature your story, I will also include a short write up with bio information and a brief critique, a great opportunity for anyone looking to increase their visibility. Not sure what to send or if this is right for you? Check out last week’s post here.


So, what are waiting for? Send your story to ejamesolson1@gmail.com by 3/4 and check in next week when I announce the next title to be critiqued on Writing as Art. I look forward to hearing from you!

Writing as Art: Approaching Twi-Night

thNCEN8Z70Writing as Art digs deeply into the literary, structural, and poetic devices that make writing an art form. The excerpts and short fiction presented are chosen from a list of submissions sent by authors around the world. The purpose is educational and based off of the idea that we can all learn from each other. I start off the conversation by incorporating annotations every few paragraphs. (These are surrounded by parenthesis and written in bold) But my annotations are only the starting point. I encourage you to comment, critique, disagree, agree and argue the literary merit of each piece.

For this week, we have an excerpt from M. Thomas Apple’s debut novel, Approaching Twi-Night. Enjoy!


from Approaching Twi-Night

She arrived at an overcast Friday noontime, the last day of the homestand, in a tiny red car packed with clothing covering the back windows. Through the balcony sliding doors he watched her pull into the back lot, but he waited until she had come around front and rung the buzzer. He greeted her with a forced friendliness, an awkwardness which attempted to conceal two feelings, one of nostalgic longing, one of unforgiving regret. She smiled and said she felt as if she’d been on the road for days.

(Although it seems simple, there is a lot to say about this opening paragraph. To start off, Apple sets the scene without boring us to tears with explanation. The word “homestand” lets us know that the protagonist plays baseball. No other sport has “homestands”. We also know that he lives in an apartment because she parked in the “back lot” as he looked at her through the “balcony sliding doors.” Apple establishes the mood by describing the weather as “overcast”. Typical, right? Wrong. He’s a baseball player so an overcast sky could mean no game tonight. This establishes a parallel between his baseball career and his relationship with the woman in “the tiny red car,” through a simple juxtaposition. He reveals his mixed feelings for her as, “nostalgic longing” and “unforgiving regret,” which is further shown through his use of parallel structure/anaphora in that same sentence “one of…one of…”. There’s a lot I could say about characterization here, but this annotation has already grown exceedingly verbose. I’ll leave those comments to the masses. One last thing then I’ll move on. I liked the use of alliteration with “forced friendliness.” It makes it feel forced. Great effect)

He made her some coffee. John, Vi said, with some hesitation, is there anything I could eat? A bagel? A sandwich? She’d been living on pbj, she said, picking the mold out of her last grape jelly jar. He acquiesced.

She ate as they talked, carefully treading with conscious discomfort.

John mentioned to her that he had been writing again. But, he muttered, it stunk. It would never be good enough. It was crap. He was crap.

If you don’t think you can write, she asked, why do you bother doing it? She put down her cup and pulled out a cigarette. Do you mind? she asked. Well, I don’t have any ashtrays, he replied. I quit smoking.

(I always think Cormac McCarthy when I see dialogue without quotation marks. It’s hard to do because it can be confusing for some readers, but Apple does it masterfully. It isn’t that each character has a very unique voice, not yet at least. It’s clear who’s talking because Vi is limited to asking questions and John only makes statements. The sparse dialogue also contributes to the bleak atmosphere of the apartment and the bleak prospects of both character’s lives. We don’t know what Vi does as a profession but we do know she’s “living on pbj.” John is a failed writer and I’m starting to think he’s a minor-leaguer meaning that he’s poor and his life isn’t likely to go anywhere)

I didn’t know you ever did, Vi laughed, lighting up. He wandered over to the couch, picked up a random empty bottle from in front of the TV and thought: Two and a half years. We were seeing each other for two and a half years, and you don’t remember that I smoked. He set the bottle in front of her, watching her tip the ashes past the lip, casually. She coughed briefly and lowered her head.

(The use of imagery in this paragraph, “a random bottle from in front of the TV,” adds another layer to the already bleak atmosphere. I’m picturing a beer bottle and I’m questioning why it isn’t in the trash can. Reminds me of college, which was cool back then, but John’s not in college)

I don’t have anything to say, he stammered, gripping the coffee mug with both hands. He took a sip and swallowed. Nothing new. Everything I want to write has been done before. Everything I could say has been done before, everything I think has been thought before. What else could I say? What could I write that would make any difference?

Why do you still play ball? she asked, standing up. He opened his mouth to respond to the non sequitur as she took a couple of steps toward the kitchen. Do you mind if I make myself another sandwich? she asked, cutting into his train of thought.

No. No, go ahead, he said, waving a hand. I don’t know if there’s anything left besides bread, though. I mean anything good. Things might have gone bad after our first road trip.

That’s okay, Vi said over her shoulder. She had opened the fridge door, extracted the jam. She continued, I mean, you told me once you didn’t think you were good enough to stay in the majors. So, that means all you can do is play and make numbers in the minors. You know, all those statistics, all those numbers, they’ve all been done before. You’re not going to make it into the Hall of Fame or whatever. All you can do is make more numbers, right?

(Very intelligent use of dialogue. Did you see what he did here? He just asked “What’s the meaning of life” without sounding annoyingly philosophical. Apple tempers the question in two ways. First, it’s Vi who asks the question. Clearly, her voice comes off as informal and innocent. Second, because she’s making a sandwich, Vi seems a bit absent minded)

Stats. Vi had been a psych major, John remembered. Three years younger than him, when he first met her through a mutual friend in Amherst, an opposing pitcher. After an away game during a rainout makeup doubleheader, the second game a fairly good outing for himself, he was introduced to Vi at a party of some sort. John wasn’t good at parties, never was. He just liked to drink and to watch the goings-on. She liked to watch, too, she said in a private conversation. The body is the physical manifestation of the inner person, she confided. You could tell what someone was like through careful examination of material context: gestures, gesticulations, mannerisms, intimate corporeal details of the anatomy.

He had believed her, then.

John brought himself back to his present, surreptitious peeks at Vi, standing at his kitchen counter, cig in mouth, purple-covered knife in hand. What had she told him, at the time? Fifty. She’d been with fifty. I don’t want to be just another number, he’d told her that last time. She looked pleadingly. I can’t help how I feel. I can’t…

(This part brings it all together, his baseball career, his struggles as a writer, and his failed relationship with Vi. If the stats he accumulates in baseball don’t matter and the words he writes don’t matter, then why does the number of men Vi’s slept with matter? The logical development of this parallelism adds to the cynical beauty of the piece)

Fifty-one. How many numbers were there now? John wondered. He supposed she was right. There are no new numbers.




And that’s it. Here’s a link to the rest of the book: Approaching Twi-Night which happens to be free to download tonight. If you have an excerpt from a novel or a short piece of fiction, please e-mail submissions to Ericjamesolson1@gmail.com And as always, please comment. It helps us all out.








Originally from Troy, New York, M. Thomas Apple spent part of his childhood in a tiny hamlet in the Helderbergs and his teenage years in a slightly larger village in the Adirondacks.13500352

He studied languages and literature as an undergraduate student at Bard College and later creative writing at the University of Notre Dame du Lac, where he wrote a controversial, award-winning opinion column for the student-run daily newspaper, The Observer, while composing the initial draft of what would become Approaching Twi-Night.

After further studies at Temple University, he now teaches global issues and English as a second language at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.

Writing with Style 1: How to Write an Ending

Tonight I take a break from my mock-epistolary style with a different type of blog post. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I get a lot of questions from fellow writers who’ve read my books and have asked something like, “How’d you keep the pace moving so fast,” or “Where’d you come up with the idea to use … as a symbol for …” or “how do you keep the writing so clean or so tight?” Originally, I thought it was enough to address these types of questions with my bi-weekly, Letters on Literary Devices. But it appears that most folks prefer serious answers over sarcasm, and I figure, eh, what the hell, I’ll give sincerity a shot.

th (4)

For those of you who follow along with each post, you probably remember last’s week’s Letter on Literary Devices where I discussed a bizarre new way to conceptualize the development of a book ending. If you didn’t read it, check it out: The Predictability Spectrum. In that, I shamelessly compared foreshadowing the ending of a book to different variations of fecal excretions (Shit, that sounded like hyperbole). In this, I’d like to expand on the ideas expressed in that post with a slightly more serious approach and hopefully some decent tips for all you folks working on an ending for a book.

Here it goes:

One of the greatest challenges a writer faces in closing a book deals with the following questions: How explicit should I be? How much should I explain? How much should I leave open for interpretation?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a single answer here. Fortunately, I do have some important considerations that could help lead you to a decision.

Consideration 1: Are you writing Genre fiction? Readers expect certain types of endings for certain types of genres. So if you’re writing a mystery, a thriller, or a romance; you’re going to want some twists and turns in your ending. You won’t want to give to much away by means of foreshadowing, but you will want an ending that wraps up neatly. No room for interpretation needed.

Other genres bring other expectations. It’s important to know the expectation, so that you can either choose to follow it or choose to cleverly break the rules.

Consideration 2: Is your book literary? If it is, good. You have a lot of freedom. Although you can’t ignore convention entirely, you have a lot of options. The one thing to avoid is laziness. Whatever you do, don’t just end it because you don’t know how to end it. Don’t just make everything work out fine or kill everyone off for no reason (Unless you’re writing a farce). There should be reason behind an ending. (Unless you’re trying to make some homage to modernism. In that case, good luck to you).


Consideration 3: Should the ending be suspenseful? That’s easy. The answer is yes. However, there’s more than one way to create suspense. You don’t have to end the book with a shootout to keep the readers attention. If you’ve done a good job developing your protagonist, your readers will want to know what’s going to happen to him or her. By simply building suspense up to the moment where the conflict resolves, you set yourself up for a decent ending. This can be done in a number of ways. Personally, I try to make the main conflict multi-dimensional. I like it to affect more than one character; I like it to involve some type of decision; I like to foreshadow its resolution symbolically; I like to use a lot of repetition of images or actions; I like there to be a moment of recognition (Aristotle called it anagnorisis) where the protagonist or antagonist realizes and even verbalizes his inescapable fate.  And these are just the things I can think of as I’m sitting here. There’s tons of ways to build suspense towards an ending. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask readers whether or not the ending held their attention.

Consideration 4: Did you develop any major symbols or recurring motifs throughout your novel? If you didn’t, it might not be a bad idea to go back and add a few. That’s one of the things I always do during the first round of revision. Often, an ending can be hinted at through a symbolic event or passage earlier in the novel. In the book I just finished writing, the major symbol was the image of a hawk struck by a speeding truck. There was also a set of dancing eyeballs and a puddle of stagnant river water and this song that kept playing on the radio: Always the same, / Don’t you never change…”. There was more but I don’t want to give away the potential title. The point is this: to end the novel I allowed these symbols and images and motifs to converge towards an inevitable, believable conclusion. There weren’t twists and turns per se, but that’s ok. The symbols contradicted each other suggesting more than one possible ending. And that’s what creates suspense. It’s not about foreshadowing a single ending. Its about foreshadowing several possible endings. That’s why adding symbolism can be so powerful. Inherently, symbols allow for interpretation.


Consideration 5: Should the ending be explained, hinted at, or left totally open? Personally, I like ambiguity in endings. But that doesn’t work for every book. I have four published novels now. The first ended in a tell-all. Here’s what readers said about it: “the ending is fitting” , “Throughout the story there are twists and turns, which keep you guessing right up to the very plausible and fitting end.” And that’s the type of feedback this type of ending is likely to receive. My third book was left open-ended. Check out what folks said about that one: … Yep, that’s right. No one commented on the ending. After that I decided to do a tell all with my fourth book. Check out what one reader had to say: Probably the most brilliant way to tie up loose ends in a series ever” The point here should be clear: readers remember the tell all ending. But that doesn’t necessarily make it better. It just makes it more memorable.


Well, that’s it for now. Hope this was helpful. If it was, and you liked this post, help me out by hitting that like button below. If you’d like to read more posts by me, feel free to click the follow button on the side of this screen. Want to check out my books. Just click this link: BOOKS. As always, thanks for reading and have a good day.





Letters on Literary Devices 13: The Predictability Spectrum

To haters of predictable endings:

As I’m sure you’ve already predicted, I’m writing this letter to expound on a new literary term I just invented. Here’s the name: THE PREDICTABILIY SPECTRUM.

Why did I invent this term, you ask? Well, these days, spectrums are all the rage. Think about it. You got the visible light spectrum – you know – like rainbows and shit. Autism has a spectrum. There’s the ol’ electromagnetic spectrum. There’s economic spectrums, political spectrums, broad spectrum antibiotics. Even poop has a spectrum. Haven’t seen it? Check it out:

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So I figured that if poop gets a spectrum, us literary folks should start thinking about getting some of our own spectrums too. Thus, I’ve created the very first literary spectrum (That I happen to know of).

On the far left side of the spectrum, we have foreshadowing. Everyone knows foreshadowing. That’s when an author builds suspense by hinting at future events. It can be done with a recurring motif, a snippet of dialogue, a direct address to the reader, dramatic irony – you get the idea, the list goes on.

On the far right side of the spectrum, we have Deus ex machina. That’s just an old Greek term for an unbelievable ending. In Greek drama, Deus ex machina was used when the plot was unsolvable. In those cases, the Gods would intervene, save the day, and everyone would go home happy. To be called Deus ex machina, the resolution of the conflict must seem random which means a total absence of foreshadowing.

To better the understand spectrum, take a moment to study this professionally drawn illustration:

Predictability Spectrum

Similar to good pooping, good writing relies on balance. While a good dump finishes somewhere between constipation and diarrhea, a good ending to a novel can be found somewhere between completely predictable and totally random.

It’s important to keep in mind that no two poops are alike and no two novels are alike either. For some genres and styles, a more predictable, softer ending is expected. Others require hard twists and turns in the plot before reaching an explosive conclusion. And that’s why I like the Predictability Spectrum. It allows for differences unique to the author and poop – I mean book.


Well, that’s all I have to say. I doubt that you predicted any of that. Deuces.

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