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.


M said...

Wait can you explain the diagram?? (Rick is my mentor this semester, thank you for this post!!)

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Only Rick Bass can explain a Rick Bass diagram. I've never had him as a mentor, but I heard he's incredible. Enjoy!