Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Michael Byers on narrative necessity

I really like this essay by Michael Byers, which he calls
Nick Carraway's Convenient Dog

Or, The Sure-But-And-So,

a Strategy for Approaching Awkward Necessity.

Here's a sample:

"There are times when you just need certain things to happen in order for a story to work. Sometimes these things are implausible, unlikely, or wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. How do you handle this?
The trick is:

  • acknowledge the difficulty;
  • provide one reason the difficulty isn't quite what it seems;
  • provide another reason; and finally
  • introduce the false, required conclusion.
Sure – but – and – so."


Michael Byers wrote one of my favorite short story collections, The Coast of Good Intentions. Here's a list of his awards:
  • Friends of American Writers Literary Award for Long for this World
  • Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • Whiting Prize for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • New York Times Notable Books, 1998 for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • PEN/Hemingway Award (finalist) for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • Stanford University Stegner Fellowship in Fiction, 1996-98



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