Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing Fiction with Pat Carr

Last fall Saturday Writers presented a workshop with acclaimed fiction writer Pat Carr. It was the fourth time I've heard Pat speak, and each time I'm inspired to run home and write short stories. During last year's workshop I used Pat's exercises to begin a few new stories. Like magic, those stories took shape.

After last year's Saturday Writers workshop, Lou Turner, CEO and publisher of High Hill Press, convinced Pat to write a hands-on book about writing fiction. The result is Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, the lovely book featured on the left.

You might be wondering: Who is Pat Carr and how can she teach me to write fiction? Pat Carr has a B.A. and M. A. from Rice, a Ph.D. from Tulane, and has taught literature and creative writing in universities across the South. She has fifteen published books, including the Iowa Fiction Prize winner, The Women in the Mirror, the PEN Book Award finalist, If We Must Die, and over one hundred short stories in pubications including The Southern Review, Yale Review, and Best American Short Stories. Her latest short story collection, The Death of a Confederate Colonel, a nominee for the Faulkner Award, won the PEN Southwest Fiction Award, the John Estes Cooke Fiction Award, and was voted one of the top ten books from university presses for 2007 by Foreword Magazine.

Her award-winning story "The Party," which was first published in The Southern Review, is included in her book. Other stories included are "The Death of a Confederate Colonel" and "Incident on the Border."

Carr's how-to book begins with "The Techniques" and the sentence "Fiction is narrative in scenes." From there she gives two dozen assignments, which cover the nuts and bolts of writing compelling short stories, including: scene, setting, character, details, names, emotions, dialogue, point of view, openings, endings, symbols, vision, revision, theme, and more.

On "Point of View," she writes, "An author's choice of point of view can make or break a story." Carr not only offers advice, she includes diagrams to demonstrate her points and includes examples of different points of view.

On openings and endings, "The opening sentence of a story should promise what the story will deliver," and "The last line of a story should be a piece of dialogue, an action, or an image."

While this post isn't a short story, I'll take Carr's advice and leave you with a piece of dialogue.

After reading and using Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, Donna Volkenannt commented, "Carr's advice is brilliant and her assignments are inspiring!"


  1. Thanks for the great recommendation!

  2. Hi Ellie,
    You're welcome. It's a great resource.

  3. It sounds like a "must-have." Thanks for the review.

  4. "The Party" is truly a work of a master. This book must be great. Thanks!

  5. Thanks Donna. I enjoyed "The Party" and look forward to reading more of Ms. Carr's work.

  6. I definitely enjoyed Pat Carr's presentation. She certainly knows her stuff!


  7. Hi All,
    Thanks for your comments. Pat is an excellent writer and teacher.


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