Some years ago Charles wrote an essay about "the request moment" as a catalyst for stories. In that essay he argued that stories often begin when one character asks another to perform a particular action as a proof (of friendship, love, or personal identity) and to do it within a limited amount of time (i.e., please do it soon). In this talk, Charles would like to reconsider the request moment by paying particular attention to the ways that request moments can edge toward psychological violence and emotional blackmail. He also is interested in the characterizations of the person who asks (or demands), and, given those ingredients, what sorts of stories may result. In all cases, the request moment tends to increase the dramatic tension of the story by putting demands on the protagonist.
Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The O. Henry Prize Story Anthology. His craft books, The Art of Subtext, Burning Down the House, and Wonderlands, have provided insight and inspiration to writers everywhere. He has won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Baxter lives in Minneapolis.