Archive for April, 2017

When is a fiction story a literary art form? Editorial Opinion

Monday, April 17th, 2017
William H. Coles

Literature is written stories considered superior and of lasting merit–an art form. Fiction portrays imagined events and people. If you're a writer, you can't know what stories from today will be the literature of tomorrow, but you can write the best story possible using the techniques of past writers who've reached literary status: Austen, Flaubert, Chekhov, Homer, Tolstoy, Melville, Hawthorne, Woolf, Henry James, Babel, Twain, and the like. In the main, these authors have common, basic elements of story construction that may, for the contemporary writer, mature into meritorious longevity.

Who cares? "Fiction writers continue to evolve and their works may very well be literature without the 'contrived' constraints from the past," many might say. But in reality, literary fiction stories structured for artistic characterization, meaningful purpose, and enlightenment about the human condition, are infrequent, rarely published, and are increasingly difficult to access when they are available. Unfortunately, the "literary fiction" of today mostly masquerades as memoir, autobiography, "creative" writing, and the literature-of-self. How can literary fiction regain distinction? Here are important literary STORY ELEMENTS contemporary writers should assimilate if not master:

First, expert CHARACTERIZATION is the essential of a great literary fictional story; well-formed character traits reveal desires and motives that drive meaningful plots. Equally important is STRUCTURE with Aristotelian principles that allow transfer of ideas and images to enlighten readers, usually about the intricacies of human existence. DICTION must be clear and well-written to vitalize prose and story. Lyricism–when story-specific and character enhancing–can enrich story effects without diminishing essential importance of in-scene action and dramatic narration.

Most important? Great literary-fiction stories as art are IMAGINED and CREATED, not just remembered and described. True, memory stimulates imagination evoking reflections on life and living, but a self-important writer believing events and characters described from personal experience are equal to imagined and created stories usually fails to reach maximum potential as an artist.

And what is an ART form?
Art, in literature, is expressed by human creative skills and imagination that produce beauty and emotional power. Beautiful stories emerge by character uniqueness; a narrator's reliability and perception of the human condition; the creation of accurate story-related imagery and metaphor; reader engagement to sense story is happening rather than being told; and from writers concerned with their art, not their wealth or fame.

A confessional memoir and autobiography published as "fiction" for catharsis or forgiveness rarely reaches the threshold possible with imagined and created literary fiction. The literature-of-self is created mostly from the author's world view and experience. By contrast, great literary fiction evolves from 1) the author's  study and understanding of the possible worldviews of other humans and characters, 2) experienced and observed compassionate understanding of humanity, and 3) as often as possible, enlightenment about metaphysical questions that plague us all–who are we? why are we here? what is justice? what is love?

You can read six imagined and created SHORT STORIES (FREE) and a NOVEL, examples of literary stories that explore the complexities in the facets of LOVE (not just romance but the broader implications of affection, caring, and bonding that all humans experience with varying skills and extent).


Thanks for reading!
Literary Art Form

Mastering the Power of a Literary Fictional Story

Monday, April 3rd, 2017
William H. Coles

A writer’s imagination in fiction opens the gates to creating great literary stories. To shape great literary stories, authors master skillful characterization and apply centuries-proved story structures that have matured from creative writers of the past—Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Bronte(s), Sophocles, Hemingway, Faulkner, and so many others.

Most writers today want to realize their dreams of a writer’s life style and acclaim; they write for admiration, fame, and fortune. Nothing wrong with that; it’s a path to happy successful careers for many. But some authors want to create meaningful stories that might contribute to understanding the constantly-evolving humanity, stories that are read and reread and passed onto future generations. Homer, Austen, Conrad, Melville, Forster, Woolf, transmit the soul of their generations with lasting, penetrating impact, and for example, by uniquely portraying thoughts and emotions, nature of love, core human desires, sense of morality–all with drama, imagery, and action.

How can a writer today achieve memorable meritorious stories? Study the techniques of the storytellers of the past that are indelibly etched in the collective human consciousness. Discover elements of powerful lasting literary stories that work for you as an author and incorporate those elements into your writing and storytelling.

Stories are about events and people. In great literature, story frequently reveals not only what happens but how humans live and how life changes them. There are no secret formulas but there are commonalities that generate power for stories to move and evolve with mankind into future generations. Here are elements for thought.

1) WRITE WITH PURPOSE. As you write, search what is in you that drives you to write your story. A purpose clarifies prose, scenes, characters, narration, point of view and plot that become more focused and unified, especially in revision.
2) THEME AND MEANING. Theme is recurrent idea; meaning is significant ideas. What can a reader learn from reading that is new and significant?
3) CHANGE. Characters change as stories progress and so do readers after
reading a great story. Change examples: enlightenment (discovery or experience a new way of thinking), a shift in morality, a reversal, coming of age, etc.
4) DRAMA. Show in-scene dramatic conflict and action when possible. Abstract and static descriptions of character and scene (telling) are necessary but often less effective in developing characterization.
5) UNIQUE AND FASCINATING CHARACTERS. Core desires, abilities, imagination, motivations, sense of morality, strong vivid worldview.
6) STRUCTURE. 1) Beginning, middle, end. 2) Carefully-considered timeline. 3) character-based plots. 4) Emotional arcs. 5) Logical and credible happenings sequenced for story unity.

READ the complete essay here: Mastering the Power of a Literary Fictional Story

You can find more information about LEARNING TO WRITE LITERARY FICTION here:

And thanks for reading!
William H Coles

Creating Literary Stories


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