Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lessons From My MFA Creative Writing Program

In the moments after I listen to each new episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, I want to redesign my entire life. Especially after The Terminator was a show guest. In other words, I'm easily inspired. After completing my second residency in my master's of fine arts in creative writing program, I felt like I absorbed the one-liners from all of Arnold's movies since Conan.

I can't properly show you how meaningful this Stonecoast experience has been for me, but I can share some of the insights I transcribed. I think many of these are true in writing and storytelling and life.

Author Rick Bass says:

  • So much of writing is physical. You have to be in shape for it.
  • If you have a story focusing on sadness, contrast it with a paragraph about great joy. Always be aware of the opposite.
  • Your answer to any question about writing is "specificity." It overrides everything.
  • If you have to use a big moment to keep your reader engaged then maybe you have bigger problems.
  • Write a great sentence. Your next sentence has to be even better. And the next even better. That's how you keep the reader engaged.
  • Short stories are a time-tested way for humans to relate to each other.
  • The first sentence in a story is the second most important; the last sentence is the most important. Get the reader to commit to the journey.

Rick Bass is a fascinating man and he led me to coin a term: when your writing group is critiquing your story in workshop then you're getting "Rick Bassed." This diagram he scribbled on short story structure only increases my fascination of him.
Author Rick Bass diagram on short story structure

See author Justin Tussing's insights I transcribed after my first residency in January.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

I Created This Fictional Character on Instagram

Instagram lends itself to fiction and I just created my second character on the social network. Follow my "quadsteppers" if you want some silliness sprinkled with all the selfies in your Instagram feed.

Quadsteppers in a recycling bin

Sometimes I use crutches, or what I call quadsteppers, but I don't want to carry them once I reach my destination. So I place them behind couches and under seats; prop them against walls; plop them in recycle bins. In what other ridiculous places can I stow my quadsteppers? Find out on Instagram.com/quadstep.

You can also follow Cancerslayer, who is my first fictional character on Instagram.com/benrubenstein. Cancerslayer fights illness by day and bad guys by night. He goes around the world and says lots of stupid shit. Follow him if you want to get dumber.
Cancerslayer scrambling across stones at Frost Point in Odiorne Point State Park

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