Fall Reading: Lauren Carter
We asked MFA alumni publishing books this season what they’re reading, and what they'd recommend. Here are Lauren Carter's current favourites on craft:
My first two novels are narratives written in first person. This point-of-view comes easily to me so lately I’m challenging myself by writing in third person (and, occasionally, second). This style I find difficult to do so I’ve been reading lots of books about writing process, practice, and craft.
How Fiction Works by James Woods takes a fascinating (I’d say philosophical) look at the gears and bolts within the machinery of fiction. Using plenty of example texts, he considers metaphor, realism, character development, the novel’s history, and lots more (his discussion of ‘free indirect style’ (aka close third person) was especially helpful for me).
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass had me nodding along like a bobble doll. In this book, with loads of practical suggestions, he posits that rather than thinking about showing and telling in order to communicate our characters’ emotional experience we should consider how we “get readers to go on emotional journeys of their own.”
The brilliant new Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison is the best rethinking of Aristotle’s narrative arc since Ursula K. LeGuin’s carrier bag theory of storytelling.
She writes: "For centuries there's been one path through fiction we're most likely to travel - one we're actually told to follow - and that's the dramatic arc: a situation arises, grows tense, reaches a peak, subsides . . . But something that swells and tautens until climax, then collapses? Bit masculosexual, no? So many other patterns run through nature, tracing other deep motions in life. Why not draw on them, too?" This book examines works following eight different patterns including meander (narrative that flows “along an extravagant arabesque of detours”) and fractal (“texts that start with a ‘seed’ or blueprint that spawns several more”). Mind. blown.
Lauren's second novel, This Has Nothing To Do With You, was published in September by Freehand books. She will be touring in Ontario during the first week of November, with events in Toronto on November 5 (Rower's Pub Reading series at Glad Day Bookshop, 6:30pm) and November 6 (Type Books Queen Street [with Farah Heron], 7pm). Check out laurencarter.ca for more events in Ontario and beyond.