A Fiction-Writer Changes Style with Image-Words Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

What if the writer can, with words, create images in a reader’s mind that primarily stimulate setting and character in a fiction story. It’s a matter of choice, imagination, purpose, and style, and very individual. Using basic-story information of plot momentum, let's augment basic story action-information with setting and characterization with authorial style changes as examples.

They went to the birthday party of a man. Is it appropriate to develop setting and character in scene or narrative when the plot purpose is to simply move characters to a party? Will it inhibit or captivate a reader’s interest? Consider these examples.

Examples of style change with use of imagery.


The locomotive with colorful cars behind followed the track that snaked through the valley. The steam of the locomotive reddened the face of the engineer as he leaned out the window. He wondered, as the clouds gathered, if the printed banners with the czar’s name flapping above the red, green and white decorations so carefully applied on the cars behind by the birthday celebrants, would be dampened, maybe even destroyed, by rain. He gripped the waist-high metal lever jutting up through a slit in the floor and shoved it forward. The locomotive strained ahead tilting to the left when it reached the first turn.

2) BASIC PLOT information but DIFFERENT IMAGES. A different fiction-prose style.

The packed cable car left Fisherman’s wharf with a bell clang and a screech of steel on steel. Most of my fellow students had some colorfully wrapped birthday gift to give to Mr. Faraday. I teetered on an outer step of the car holding a hand rail while being jostled between a muscular middle-aged man in a skin-tight cyclist suit and aerodynamically sleek helmet and a reeking, unshaven, wrinkled old man in a torn, too-big, woolen overcoat.  The cable car nosed down after we turned onto Powell and we shifted our weight to remain as close to upright as possible.  Without warning, rain pelted my face, and I knew by the squishy feel of the rolled white-paper banner that I had painted with purple-ink birthday greetings was ruined.

3) The above image-detail may be too much and exaggerated for some stories, an unacceptable style. Here using same plot basic information, people going to a party, is the same story development WITHOUT IMAGERY that emphasizes characterization.

All the students were crowded into the bus. We silently resented the trip to our professor’s pretentious and unwelcoming mansion for his birthday celebration to pronounce our fallacious– but demanded–admiration for him. When we arrived, dense rain fell us as we stepped from the bus and the celebration banner I had painted was ruined and I threw it under the bus, happy not to have to exude feigned respect.

Take Away.

With careful thought and considered judgement, images in a fiction-writer’s story can delineate style, build characters, and stimulate setting visualization. But it may be easy to overdo in some styles to the detriment of story momentum and loss of reader engagement.

Stories that use images to stimulate setting visualization and enhance characterization.
Speaking of the Dead
The Miracle of Madame Villard



Speaking of the Dead
The Miracle of Madame Villard

Speaking Of The Dead by William H. Coles

Speaking of the Dead, a short story by William H. Coles
Illustration by Betty Harper

The Miracle of Madame Villard

The Miracle of Madame Villard

The Miracle of Madame Villard, a short story by William H. Coles
Illustration by Peter Healy

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The effect of passive voice on your fiction-writing style. Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

If your fiction prose-stories don’t attract readers, one culprit may be nonjudicious use of the passive voice related to style and craft proficiency. To moderate style, a writer needs to know passive construction and understand both the effective and often-detrimental uses of passive.  Here’s a concise, valuable overview.

EXAMPLES: Compare the effects of these two passages:
The inscriptions on the gravestones were obscured by darkness but the marble was still cracked by Jason’s hammer-strike as a photograph was taken by a hidden camera.

Darkness obscured the gravestone inscriptions but Jason cracked the marble with a hammer strike as a hidden camera took a photograph.

A common purpose of passive use is to change the focus of attention in the sentence from the subject to the object.

Active:  The whale swallowed Pinocchio.  An ACTIVE sentence emphasizes who did something (the doer).
Passive:   Pinocchio was swallowed by the whale.  In the PASSIVE, the object becomes more important than the "doer" and the “doer” of the action becomes  the subject.

Also in the passive,  the "doer" (1) may not be revealed or (2) may be revealed with the use of “by” followed by the “doer”.

Active: The intruder murdered the woman.  (The intruder is the subject “doer”; woman is the object.)

Passive: The woman was murdered.   (Object becomes the subject, the “doer” is not revealed.)

Passived: The woman was murdered by the intruder. ("Doer" is revealed at  sentence end using "by" followed by the "doer" noun.)

In essence, passive is often used when the FOCUS is on:

1) what happened–focus is on the object:

Passive. I was attacked by a stranger.  Compare active:  A stranger attacked me.

2) who carried out the action.

Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe was painted by Manet.

3) how the action was carried out:

The solo was played beautifully.

OR when the “DOER”:

4) is unknown.

The cathedral was built in 1245.

5) does not want to be identified

Murders were committed.

Other uses of the passive.
Promotion of indirect objects, idiomatic combinations, prepositional passives, content clauses, impersonal passive, adjectival uses, double passives…

Undoubtedly, most successful prose-fiction storytellers don’t need to spend too much time worrying about the details of passive tense. They default to creating by instinct. But for some literary fiction styles, unnecessary overuse of the passive may be detrimental; the passive may be weaker, wordier, and more indirect than the active which is direct and vigorous. And a passive has potential for erasing who performs the action therefore avoiding the agent’s responsibility for the action.  [Example: Crucial statistics were deleted from our files.]

Although avoidance of the passive has been advised by many teachers of writing, the passive is often the better choice for clear expression: when the actor is unimportant, unknown, or needs to be hidden; when the focus of the sentence is on what is being acted upon; to maintain point of view; or simply when it sounds better. (see Bryan A. Garner and Joseph M. Williams below).

In summary, knowledge and controlled use of the passive in literary fiction stories can improve a writer’s style with clarity and focus on verb, subject, object emphasis that improves reader engagement and understanding.

Thanks for reading.
William H. Coles

-Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_passive_voice
Garner, Bryan A. (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. pp. 676–677. ISBN 978-0-19-049148-2.
-Williams, Joseph M. (2015). Bizup, Joseph, ed. Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (5th ed.). Pearson. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-321-95330-8.

STORY IN FICTION by William H. Coles

Books by William H. Coles

Looking for a good book of literary fiction?
TRYThe Surgeon’s Wife by William H. Coles
[and other novels and short stories: McDowell, Guardian of Deceit, The Spirit of Want, Sister Carrie, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016]

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Why Select Stories Succeed Best as Literary Fiction Editorial Opinion

William H. Coles

Great literary fiction storytelling as an art form is not for all readers, and its success is not measured solely on volume of commercial book sales but rather the number of readers moved or enlightened by characters and story, usually about what it means to be human. Many of the literary stories that have lasted into new generations of readers have important, common characteristics; here are the principles.

1. Characterization.
The fictional humans that populate successful literary fiction seem real to the reader, either in the context of the reader’s world, or the story world created by the author. It is the creation of these “real “characters to be moved by as well as to move story events that assembles character-based story and plot in most successful literary fiction.  As Virginia Woolf wrote, “. . . they [characters] live and are complex by means of their effect upon many different people who serve to mirror them in the round. . ." When considering “. . . the permanent quality of literature . . . think away the surface animation, the likeness to life, and there remains . . . a deeper pleasure, an exquisite discrimination of human values.

2. Author’s role.
Woolf taught us: “Always in imaginative literature, . . . characters speak for themselves and the author has no part . . .”  In effect, there is no “I” in most great literary fiction. Woolf, in  A Common Reader, gives Emily Brontë as an example; “. . . she was inspired by some more general conception. The impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her own injuries. She looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel [Wuthering Heights]— a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely ‘I love’ or ‘I hate’, but ‘we, the whole human race’ and ‘you, the eternal powers . . .’ ”

3. Narrative voices.
Contemporary stories depend on particular action to keep a story moving. In developing character, there is often a shift from “. . . the actual body with all its associations and movements . . .” to the general, [abstract], more poetic prose. Woolf suggests, for literary fiction, the need for a voice that combines action and poetics without interrupting the movement of the story whole, a voice “similar to what the choruses of Greek drama supplied–the old men or women who take no active part in the drama, the undifferentiated voices who sing like birds in the pauses of the wind; who can comment, or sum up, or allow the poet to speak himself or supply, by contrast, another side to his conception. Always in imaginative literature, where characters speak for themselves and the author has no part, the need of that voice [similar to a chorus] is making itself felt.

To some extent, memoir and creative nonfiction have invaded the realm of imaginative literary fiction melding memoir and biography with fiction as literature. The dissapearance of classic-fiction stories is at least partially due to academics failing to educate writing students to the intricacies of the great, successful literary fiction of the past.

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles.

References: Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader ISBN 978-0-15-602778-6; Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader ISBN 0-15-602816-6

Illustration by David Riley for the short story “Nemesis”, by William H. Coles

Thirty-four original stories read by the author.

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When to use backstory in literary fiction Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

In general, in fiction, backstory should only be employed to advance the front story.  For excellence, the concept is almost always required in short stories but is also useful in the broader sweep of a novel.

Example 1. Scene: no backstory. Story momentum intact.

The curtain parted just far enough for Maria to step forward into the spotlight and then closed.  She bowed to the audience applause and cupped one hand in the other in a gesture of formality.  She nodded to the piano player who, after a pause, started playing to guide her to the always difficult major-seventh opening note of the aria.  The first flush of the piano introductory chords expanded out over the audience.  Maria listened for the cue to pinpoint her starting note, it was coming . . .oh, no! but the pianist skipped the refrain with her critical cue note she must have.  Would he still recover, do it right?  She glared, tried to make eye contact. He plodded on.  The audience turned into a thousand hostile critics instead of an adoring group of friends she liked to imagine.  He’d circumnavigated to return to the intro. He was seven bars from her entrance.  It was coming!.  God!  She took a deep breath, searching her memory for some clue to her starting pitch that had now escaped her the strain an impending failure.

Example 2. Scene with backstory (italicized). Same story but momentum interrupted by backstory.

The curtain parted just far enough for Maria to step forward into the spotlight and then closed. She bowed to the audience applause and cupped one hand in the other in a gesture of formality.  She nodded to the pianist who started the intro.  She had met with him briefly yesterday.  A dull sullen young man, but attractive with dark brown eyes and an inerasable black shadow of a dark beard shaved hours ago.  She had carefully explained how she needed the refrain in the intro before the aria.  She could only start when she heard the fifth to orient her to the nonchordal tone the composer insisted on using.  She thought he had understood. And they had practiced, in the short time available, all the passages religiously.  Now he’d forgotten the refrain.  He finished the intro and went directly to the aria.  Panic rose in her.  She could never hit the crucial major seventh so unique to this composer . . . but she had to go forward.  She felt the audience’s expectant stares, heard their breathing.  When she sang the note, the pianist’s head jerked toward her.  He knew what he had done.

To build as a significant dramatic happening with impact, the scene needs momentum. Backstory stops the momentum as a result of authorial lack of purpose. Indeed, if information about the accompanist—attraction, dislike, lack of respect for his talent, etc.—is important to the story, it should be skillfully embedded outside this action-scene. As is, it represents an author intent on just writing—filling a space with written words–rather than dedication to structuring and creating a story for the purpose of engaging, entertaining, and enlightening a reader.

Thanks for reading

Preparing to Write the Great Literary Story

Suchins Escape

Suchin’s Escape, short-story illustration by Peter Healy

Looking for a good book you can’t put down? Try these novels by William H. Coles:
Guardian of Deceit
The Spirit of Want
The Surgeon’s Wife
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016

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Action and Imagery Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

Concepts for making your story writing better.

A story in fiction, to be admired and remembered, needs, among many, these essential elements—action, conflict, and active imageic-words.

In-scene storytelling is often more effective to engage and involve readers than telling-narration. The first example tells of a happening in narrative; the second, for comparison, is written in scene.


Harry flew a kite at the beach to entertain his invalid son but the kite got away, and Harry seethed with anger.

Many writers would think that changing from past to present tense would provide immediacy of action. Harry flies a kite at the beach to entertain his invalid son but the kite gets away, and Harry seethes with anger. From a reader’s pleasure-view, not much improvement. And, in fact, in-scene reader involvement can be well established in past tense (without inherent problems of present tense), and is usually preferable, at least here.

Compare in scene

Here is the same scene with the idea expressed using expanded, selected word choice; insertion of active (rather than passive) construction; and use of concrete imagery… all bolded to emphasize.

A wind gust elevated the dragon kite and the string ran through Harry’s hand fast enough to hurt.
        “Let me do it, Daddy,” his son Raymond said as he limped to Harry’s side. The boy held out his hand that, when awake, trembled from a congenital palsy. Could he hold the string? Fly the kite? He wanted to so badly.
        “Hold tight,” Harry urged, placing the string in the boy’s hand. The kite dipped then suddenly soared, the string taught again.
        The boy cried out. “I dropped it.” Harry reached out but the kite had lofted too far to grab the trailing string.
        The kite disappeared, driven out to the sea by the force of the wind.
        “I didn’t mean too,” the boy said, “Please don’t hit me.”

Note the words:

Active verbs: elevated, ran through (hand), hurt, limped, trembled, dipped, soared, dropped, lofted, disappeared, hit.
Concrete nouns: gust, palsy, string, sea.
Concrete modifiers: dragon, taught, trailing.

To improve as a fiction writer and storyteller:
1)  ritualize use of a dictionary and Thesaurus to search for the right words;
2) develop in-scene writing techniques (to replace narrative telling); be concrete–not abstract; keep perspective close to the action; keep characters’ sensations in their senses—sight, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling;
3) avoid passive constructions; and
4) rigorously seek the right balance for the story being told between narrative and in-scene telling.

Thanks for reading!


What do you do to make scenes come alive in literary fiction?
Keep readers involved when writing literary fiction stories

Creating Literary Stories

Looking for award-winning fiction books to read? By William H. Coles! TRY…
Guardian of Deceit
The Spirit of Want
The Surgeon’s Wife
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016

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Are you a storyteller? Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

Every living human has a story to tell, and most believe they'll get around to it someday… and if they get around to it, they'll be blissfully successful even if totally unaware of what a story is and how difficult it is to do well.

Of course, stories can be how you want to think they are–memoirs, essay, non-fiction, history, character sketches, creative journalism, diary entries, or even letters, but the literary story (a written work that is considered lasting and of artistic merit) has proven to be the most long-lasting written form for the last few centuries. It's one thing to scribble away to get your story onto paper, even published, without attaining thresholds of excellence to please a reader– thresholds of engagement, entertainment, and enlightenment. If you love your characters, and thrive on pride in the content of your story, you owe it to yourself to do the best you can to succeed by creating a story with potential to be read, assimilated, admired, and remembered. Consider this.

Great stories:
1. Provide character and pilot movement through time organized by the author, and not described as randomly-displaced, disjointed events from reality revealed with obscuration of origin and meaning.
2. Are infused with drama.
3. Emphasize characterization.
4. Create plots with architecture and credibility, theme and meaning.
5. Narrate to provide effective story information, images, and ideation.
7. Excite with excellent prose.
8. Require imagination and creativity rather than just remembering and describing.

Wait, you say. I want to tell my story . . . a story about me, my family, my experiences, my friends and acquaintances . . . a memoir that comes from the heart and doesn’t need contrived structuring and superfluous overthinking. Well then, great, if that's how you feel, just do it do it and all the best. And if you're a good writer, your work may well be received and lauded. But for those storytellers dedicated to excellence in writing fiction as literature, great stories are created by diligent intellectual pursuit of knowledge about story construction and experience in writing effective, clear, logical prose. And most important, for excellence, fiction writers must have an unvarying desire to engage, entertain, and enlighten a reader. To write well and create a great literary fiction story is a path to lasting pride and satisfaction.

KEY REFERENCES (available  online free to read or download).
Literary Fictional Story
Author’s Attitudes
How Literary Stories Go Wrong
Conflict in Literary Fiction

"Facing Grace with Gloria", a short story by William H. Coles available free for online reading and listening… and download.

Illustration by Peter Healy

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What EM Forster taught us about flat and round characters and how to use it. Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

In Aspects of the Novel (1927), EM Forster wrote ideas, now cherished by many writers, about flat and round characters. Here are highlights of ideas expressed in the book.

Flat characters, in pure form, are constructed around a single idea or quality, are so consistent without change that they are easily recognized and remembered, may be summed up in a few words. not as great achievements as round characters, and are best when comic rather than tragic.  Contrary to many contemporary thinkers, flat characters are very useful to authors; they “never need reintroducing, never run away, have not to be watched for development, and provide their own atmosphere—little luminous disks of a pre-arranged size, pushed hither and thither across the void or between the stars; most satisfactory.” The complexity of the novel “often requires flat people as well as round, and the outcome of their collisions parallels life more accurately.” “It is only round people who are fit to perform tragically for any length of time and can move us to any feelings” (except humor and appropriateness).

“All [of Austen’s] characters are round, or capable of rotundity,” are never caricatures, and are highly organized. A round character gives readers a slightly new pleasure each time they come into the story, as opposed to the merely repetitive-pleasure result of a flat character.

"The perfect novelist touches all his material directly, seems to pass the creative finger down every sentence and into every word. The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat. If it does not convince, it is a flat pretending to be round. It has the incalculability of life about it—life within the pages of a book.” Rotundity achieves the novelist’s task of acclimatization and harmonizes the human race with the fiction.

Authors immersed in telling their own process fail to achieve effective characterization. “It is [author] confidences about the individual people that do harm, and beckon the reader away from the people to an examination of the novelist’s mind.  The novelists “who betrays too much interest in their own method can never be more than interesting; [they have] given up the creation of character and summoned us to help analyze [their] own mind, and a heavy drop in the emotional thermometer results.

Forster shares good advice and admirable thinking, and here is what the contemporary novelist has to build characters: description, internal reflection; action; conflict and resolution; emotional arcs; vibrant, purposeful dialogue; motivations and desires; narration; point of view, and change. Great characterization is the gift of complexity and construction a fiction author taps to create great, lasting, memorable, and meaningful characters that populate the best of literary stories.

The attitude and skills for the writer of great literary-fiction stories are: imagine and create, not just remember and describe.


Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster (1927)



A short story, “The Miracle of Madame Villard”. Available online free to read or download (and MP3) and suggested as examples of flat and round characters.

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Keep readers involved when writing literary fiction stories Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

If you write a literary story to engage, involve, and enlighten receptive readers, you should (1) as an author, know the story world well and create characters from their unique worldviews (2) create a narrator who is of the story world, not you the author, (the author creates the narrator with that narrator's unique worldview, experiences, and memory). Author as narrator is a habit that constricts creativity and promotes narrative description from a fixed reality rather than creating with imagination in a literary fiction story.

Imagined and creative storytelling inspires mystery, suspense, pending discovery, moral perplexity, and surprise in the story world. And in every good story, something else is going to be discovered or happen.  Don’t create so nothing can happen. Don’t let the ideation, dialogue, or imagery of your fiction descend to inaction. Involve the reader’s mind with options and opportunities, obstacles to be conquered, solid stimulating imagery, and the unexpected. When you ignore opportunities to engage your readers, you commit your style to cliché and stereotypes. Here are examples of ways to keep readers involved.


“Lock that damn dog in the garage.”


Comment: Response kills action and suspense.

“Lock that damn dog in the garage,” George said.

“He bites!”

Comment: Response inserts possible danger … and adds suspense.

“Lock that damn dog in the garage,” George said.

“Mother would never allow that.”

Comment: Response adds to characterization.

Note: sometimes no direct response adds suspense by allowing the reader to wonder.


Claire led the police to the bathroom. Harold’s torso was submerged, his head back on the edge of the tub.

“Where are the goddamn the winnings?” Claire screamed, gripping Harold’s arm near the shoulder.

“He’s dead,” the cop said.

She dropped to her knees and sobbed.

Comment: Don’t kill off characters when they may supply mystery and suspense and keep plot moving. What if the author used–

“He’s breathing!” the cop said, awkwardly struggling to apply CPR.

She shook Harold again. “You creep. Where’s the lock-box key?”

Comment: When character’s die, character development stops, removing opportunity for suspense and mystery.

EXAMPLE 3  You can infuse mystery and suspense in descriptive narrative.

He hit the tennis ball out.

Comment: The action is closed. But there is opportunity to keep the prose alive.

He hit the ball with a soft touch and the ball arched over Jeremy’s head, descending toward the backline.


He didn’t believe in God. Or heaven.

Comment. Character’s ideas are shut leaving no opening for change. Provide uncertainty .

Could he ever believe in a God that would allow him to be falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and be doomed to live without faith in devine justice? It would be hell. Could he bear it?

EXAMPLE 5 (Keep prose active and vibrant–with a sense of in the moment.)

Imageic language enhanced with motion and conflict maintains a reader’s interest word by word. In writing, the reader’s mind is active in creating and forming images. Basically, successful authors don’t create still-life images, they paint action scenes that intrigue and engage the reader with images that live on the page.

–Static. Not effective. There was a bird on a limb.

–Improved with some action. The flying bird settled on the limb.

–A lot of energy with action and imagery. The olive branch quivered when the claws of the sparrow grasped the sturdy twig. 

MESSAGE. Great literary fiction stories are living works of art. The reader is involved. Memoir, creative nonfiction, biography, character sketch, essay, will not, by nature, provide imagined work that engages a reader with the potential of a literary fiction story.




The Miracle of Madame Villard

Speaking of the Dead

Thanks for reading! William H. Coles

Speaking Of The Dead by William H. Coles

“Speaking of the Dead” A Short Story by William H. Coles.
Illustration by Betty Harper

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Fictional Dream, Literary Style, and Storytelling. Article About Writing Better

William H. Coles

Improve writing of fiction stories.

Literature (written works of superior, lasting quality as an “art form” and fiction (imagined story and characters) are specific concepts that vitalize a writer to engage, entertain, and enlighten readers and achieve acceptance and endearment of the writer as storyteller and master of written works.

Engagement of a reader is a beneficial authorial achievement; invariably readers enjoy and learn from stories they feel a part of. To improve the skill, writers must find and correct individual strengths and weaknesses compatible with their style. No golden rules exist; but essential creative ideas abound in the talented writer.

Quality in-scene narration can be essential for a writer to capture the reader and give space for the reader to participate in the conflicts, characterizations, enlightenments that the fiction story can provide. Space means creating, for example, through action, dialogue, resolutions, morality, discovery, a character that one reader might say, wow! I love a story about a faulty hero while another reader might simultaneously think about the same character, an antihero is exactly what provides reality and credibility here. Written story-works provide opportunities for readers to build their own unique, internalized interpretations of characters and story (created and directed by the author, of course) that satisfy and please by discovery.

John Gardner introduced the concept of the fictional dream, an idea that has been inspected, interpreted, dissected, revised, and often ignored for decades. Basically, a writer creates a dream for the reader that is like submerging into an oceanic fictional world where characters and story absorb the reader without forcing the reader to leave the dream and "break the surface" back into reality.

Writers often break a reader’s fictional-dream with correctable errors such as: non-sequiturs, lack of logic or credibility, grammatical errors, inappropriate metaphor, misspellings, inaccurate word choice, faulty ideation, and–a most common correctable error–poor narrative choice or delivery. Story narrators provide crucial story information outside a character’s knowledge or capabilities such as exposition, pre-scene setup, anecdote, commentary, back story. To maintain a reader in the fictive story-dream, narrator-information is discreetly infused in scènes and narrative passages without calling attention to narrator presence.

Examples. The scene: an inexperienced pilot goes into a death spiral killing himself and his passenger.

1) She prayed when Harry gripped the Cessna’s throttle so tight his knuckles turned white; the engine whining on the edge of a power stall, the wing dipping to pull us into a death spiral. Harry moaned, frozen in fear. Her eyes stared to the side window where views of the earth alternated with the clouds in terrifying disorientation. And then, in an instant and with inexplicable surprise, she felt nothing—her senses stripped.

Comment. 3rd person POV. In-context, reader concentration and story involvement maintained.

2) She never wanted to take this flight. Heights terrified her. And she was sick from the erratic lurches they were experiencing. The engine whined as the nose of the Cessna rotated up. Harry had less than 35 hours of instrument training, a death spiral from loss of control could kill them. They were less than 3000 feet from the ground. The wing dipped, the plane plunged twisting toward the earth to impact a few seconds later, exploding, dark fuel-smoke whorling upward . . . the world turning silent.

Comment. A narrator describes action and exposition–the reader is an observer–blocking potential for a fictional dream.

Caution. Even though the concept of fictional dream is not well understood and is subject to different interpretations and acceptance, awareness of the fiction dream helps authors to engage, entertain, and enlighten a reader by mastering storytelling narrative techniques and writing competency.

READ story examples of fictional dream FREE online or PDF download:

The Amish Girl  (short story)

Dilemma  (short short)

Crossing Over  (short short)

The Amish Girl

“The Amish Girl” a short story by William H. Coles

Illustration by Dilleen Marsh

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How funny are you?

William H. Coles

How funny are you? Do you make people smile and laugh? Is anyone void of humor?

For fiction writers, these are not trivial questions. A literary writer builds and molds character to an imagined story. Since most characters need some aspect of humor, what is humor all about for a writer?

I  interviewed  two comedy professionals (husband and wife): Kevin Nealon, film actor, TV (Weeds, Man with a Plan), standup comedian, and in cast of Saturday Night Live (1986–1995, 174 episodes) and creator of memorable characters such as Hans, Mr. Subliminal, and Weekend Edition; Susan Yealey, television actor and show host, film star (Mascots), comedy series, (Parks and Recreation, Rules of Engagement) who trained at USC film school and the Groundlings in LA.

I started with the question–can a human exist without a sense of humor?

Humor is an elemental way humans release tensions–the body needs to have that sense of release–and humans use humor to connect with each other. Probably all humans have at least the potential for a sense of humor. It is obvious that humor varies relating to background, social perceptions, geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, to name a few essentials.

It's probably no surprise that surprise is at the core of the instigation of the humor response. You can find it in a misunderstanding, or a misdirection: stimuli based on expressing something we never thought about before, often in a form of syntactical manipulation. And it’s always based on the design to surprise.

Misunderstanding–This woman was in a dress shop and found a dress she liked. “Could I try on that dress in the window?” she said. The shop assistant looked up: “Sorry, Madame, you’ll have to use the changing rooms like everyone else."

Misdirection–A CEO stands before his company’s shareholders to honor an employee for twenty-five years of loyal service. Today we would like to thank Albert for his service to our company. Albert is someone who does not know the meaning of impossible task, who does not know the meaning of lunch break, who does not understand the meaning of the word no. So we have taken a collection and bought Albert a dictionary.

[Simple examples, neither a Yeagley or Nealon joke.]

And of course humor is timing too.  Subconsciously, a comedian knows how people think, knows how long it takes for them to process something, knows the direction they are thinking, and then lays the punchline, or whatever, at that moment when you know recipient is processing something in a different way.

It's complicated so take pleasure in the reading THE COMPLETE YEAGLEY/NEALON INTERVIEW (FREE).  Read how these comedians comment on humor and develop humorous stories using the elements above… and much more.

AND YOU CAN READ A SHORT STORY BY WILLIAM H COLES (FREE) with serious content where humor is embedded for relief and distraction–FACING GRACE WITH GLORIAA half-crazy vagrant easy on untruths and skilled at the art of scam meets a young woman whose father died in a river crash of a commercial jet. She thinks her father was a hero and seeks to find the truth; the vagrant lets the girl believe he saw the crash to scam her but changed by caring and a wash of moral integrity, allows the girl to believe in her father's heroism.

Thanks for reading. What does humor mean to you?
All the best.
William H. Coles

Susan Yeagley and Kevin Nealon interview

Illustration from "Facing Grace with Gloria"

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