Revising Prose For Power and Punch
As writers we’re often concerned about the “big” issues in our stories: believable dialog, rounded characters, effective plot development, etc. Often ignored is the quality of the prose itself—in concentrating on what is being said, we neglect how it’s being said. Yet this is equally, if not more, important. If a reader feels that the writer is not “in control,” if his/her prose is muddy, dull, convoluted, repetitious, confusing, mannered, etc. (and these judgments are made quickly and ruthlessly, especially by agents and editors), that reader will most likely not read on. Using examples from past workshop writing, I will concentrate on the writer's prose, word by word, sentence by sentence, asking if this prose is the best it can be, and if not, how may it be revised for more precision, power, and punch.
David Michael Kaplan is the author of a short story collection, Comfort, a novel of linked short stories, Skating in the Dark, and a book on the craft of fiction writing, Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction. His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Five Points, TriQuarterly, Story, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, and The Ohio Review, among others, and his short shorts have appeared most recently in Quarterly West and Sante Fe Literary Review. He teaches fiction writing at Loyola University Chicago.
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