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Scott Lax Blog

Truman Capote on Voice

Truman Capote said to the "Paris Review," "What I am trying to achieve is a voice sitting by a fireplace telling you a story on a winter’s evening." I may have quoted this before, but I think it bears repeating.

When you tell a story, pretend you're with people you care about. You want to impart to them the story that it's your heart, the story you need to tell. Let the words come out naturally. Forget about style, and even craft (at least on the first draft), and all the junk you learned in your writing class, be that in high school (likely freighted with the desire to please your unpublished teacher), or in college - even in an MFA program, where you're pressured to sound like so many others.

Tell your story in your own voice. Learn grammar and style and usage and then fix it up and let it fly. It's your story; don't let it be sunk by literary fashions. Capote knew this; that's why he was one of the greats, however screwed up and inconsistent he could be. The cat knew how to write.  Read More 

"Nothing More Than Telling Stories"

As you likely know, author Frank McCourt died yesterday. The "New York Times" wrote, "His students learned from him that literature was nothing more — and nothing less — than the telling of stories."

That says it all, and it's why my introductory class coming up is called "How to Tell a Story."

It's not about sounding important, or smart, or clever. Writing literature is telling stories. Truman Capote said, "What I am trying to achieve is a voice sitting by a fireplace telling you a story on a winter's evening."  Read More 

Writing Perspectives & Wicked Curveballs

In an interview in "The Paris Review," Truman Capote said, "Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

In other words: Creativity without an underlying discipline and order tends to read as chaos. When you've learned the basics of grammar, usage and style -by all means, break the rules if you want, or bend them; use wild, original colorings and shadings in your writing, if that's what suits you and your work.

Think of a baseball pitcher with a screaming fastball and wicked curveball. If he or she can't get it over the plate, though, he or she will be off the team and throwing his or her pitches against an old barn somewhere.

First, get it over the plate.