Friday, November 11, 2016

Ethan Canin

I’m sorry to say that Ethan Canin was unknown to me even though we might have crossed paths in Iowa City.

My introduction came through his appearance at the Bettendorf Public Library as part of National Novel Writing Month.

He took a series of questions and answered them in often roundabout ways that I believe involved some of his best personal stories.

It took me a bit to realize I should be taking notes. Here is my list:

·       Want a plot? Have your characters misbehave.

·       Endings should be a surprise and inevitable. (The original quote came from Aristotle long before Flannery O’Connor.)

·       Favorite authors: Alice Munro, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.

·       Best advice: Be the character. Be the POV. Character drives a story and becomes the experience.

·       Put your energy into discovery. (He doesn't outline.)

·       Always be curious.

·       A long drive makes an excellent Trigger. (A trigger is anything that transports you back into a scene or story.)

·       Writing is thinking something through.

·       There are lots of ways to build plot, characters, etc. There’s only one way for a story to go wrong: fail to pose one and only one emotional question for the reader.

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