Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Writing Workshop

How to Write: Tips, tricks, wit, and wisdom from authors who’ve mastered their craft.

Writing Dialogue:
Tips from the Trenches.

Nothing kills a story faster than bad dialogue. So said Elmore Leonard, one of the masters of written dialogue and one of my biggest influences as a writer. These tips were mostly inspired by his genius, not my own. But they are guidelines that serve me well. DIALOGUE TIP #1 Dialogue should always do something to advance the plot or help to develop a character. Ever notice how people on television and in movies never end a phone conversation by saying, “OK, see you later. Bye.” The person always se…

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Writing Villainously for Fun and Profit

Of all the characters I create, I enjoy writing my villains the most. I practically cackle with glee whenever I start dreaming up all of the awful things they will do to my other characters. Maybe that’s because in my real life I am so well-behaved that it feels ridiculously fun to be bad…even if it is only on paper! Creating villains can be fun, but getting them right is not easy. Here's the key: having a thorough understanding of what a villain is, and what makes him compelling. Now for the purpose…

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How to Write an Essay
Step 1: Think Like a Prosecutor

If your essay is giving you fits, this book is for you. If your essay has left you in a cold sweat, or cursing your blinking cursor, or in a state of panic—or just boredom—then this book is also for you. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about writing a winning essay, this book will help you write more persuasively, with more assurance. You Can Write a Great Essay The hardest thing about writing is that it requires thought. It requires putting ideas into words, and words into s…

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Writing the First Sentence

A student once gave me an ancient how-to manual for writing engaging fiction. Tip #1 was this: Have a strong first sentence! Here’s the example: “Damn,” said the duchess as she stumbled on the stairs and her cigar flew into the nearest planter. Quaint, right? Even back then the author might have had his tongue in his cheek, but the principle is sound: A duchess rarely smokes, stumbles, or swears. What else will this one do as the story unspools? Read on and find out. The Secret of (Authoria…

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Writing. Without the Clutter.

Recently, I’ve become a fan of the writer Lydia Davis. OK, “fan” may not be a strong enough word. Disciple? Groupie? I haven’t stood at intersections waiting for red lights so I can thrust copies of her books through the open car windows of startled motorists, but don’t think I haven’t considered it. Though Ms. Davis has written a novel and translated French literary classics by Marcel Proust and Gustav Flaubert into English, she’s best known as a writer of short, short stories—stories so mini they some…

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