Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way, by
Here are further thoughts on Creative Writing:
Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. Both fictional and non-fictional works fall into this category, including such forms as novels, biographies, short stories, and poems. In the academic setting, creative writing is typically separated into fiction and poetry classes, with a focus on writing in an original style, as opposed to imitating pre-existing genres such as crime or horror. Writing for the screen and stage—screenwriting and playwriting—are taught separately, but fit under the creative writing category as well.
Here is a personal and compassionate book for everyone writers, poets, teachers, lovers of life, and especially those seeking to find their writing voices again or for the first time. It is an autobiographical travelogue moving from a volcano in Hawaii to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and places in between, with writing at its heart.
Writing Toward Home offers practical advice on overcoming some of the obstacles writers of all ages face: writer’s block, fear of rejection, confronting silencing critics in your head, finding the time to write. Each short chapter speaks to the larger truths about writing and how to truly live the writer’s life: how to become more of a risk taker, how to excavate the past as a source, and how to become an acute observer of the world.
Writing Toward Home is a book that will remind you-and help you remind your students-that the true source of writing is the creative self. In this fast culture when most people have so little time to do anything but menial tasks, it will jumpstart you, it will awaken to you the journey within, it will make you want to write.
Today, we will work with the following Short Story Element Rubric:
Below is an EXCERPT from it.
Creative Writing ____________
Name of story analyzing _______________________ By __________________ Published_______
SHORT STORY ELEMENTS WORKSHEET – Fill in the following as appropriate:
a) Place –
b) Time –
c) Weather conditions –
d) Social conditions –
e) Mood or atmosphere –
a) Introduction –
b) Rising Action –
c) Climax –
d) Falling action –
e) Denouement –
1) External –
2) Internal –
1) Man vs. Man (physical) –
2) Man vs. Circumstances (classical) –
3) Man vs. Society (social) –
4) Man vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) –
We will also read The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe, as a sample of a great short story.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” was first published in September 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. It contains within it the poem “The Haunted Palace”, which had earlier been published separately in the April 1839 issue of the Baltimore Museum magazine.
In 1928, Éditions Narcisse, predecessor to the Black Sun Press, published a limited edition of 300 numbered copies with illustrations by Alastair.
The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. Although Poe wrote this short story before the invention of modern psychological science, Roderick’s condition can be described according to its terminology. It includes a form of sensory overload known as hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells, and tastes), hypochondria (an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness), and acute anxiety. It is revealed that Roderick’s twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances. The narrator is impressed with Roderick’s paintings, and attempts to cheer him by reading with him and listening to his improvised musical compositions on the guitar. Roderick sings “The Haunted Palace”, then tells the narrator that he believes the house he lives in to be alive, and that this sentience arises from the arrangement of the masonry and vegetation surrounding it.
Roderick later informs the narrator that his sister has died and insists that she be entombed for two weeks in a vault (family tomb) in the house before being permanently buried. The narrator helps Roderick put the body in the tomb, and he notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. They inter her, but over the next week both Roderick and the narrator find themselves becoming increasingly agitated for no apparent reason. A storm begins. Roderick comes to the narrator’s bedroom, which is situated directly above the vault, and throws open his window to the storm. He notices that the tarn surrounding the house seems to glow in the dark, as it glowed in Roderick Usher’s paintings, although there is no lightning.
The narrator attempts to calm Roderick by reading aloud The Mad Tryst, a novel involving a knight named Ethelred who breaks into a hermit’s dwelling in an attempt to escape an approaching storm, only to find a palace of gold guarded by a dragon. He also finds hanging on the wall a shield of shining brass on which is written a legend: that the one who slays the dragon wins the shield. With a stroke of his mace, Ethelred kills the dragon, who dies with a piercing shriek, and proceeds to take the shield, which falls to the floor with an unnerving clatter.
As the narrator reads of the knight’s forcible entry into the dwelling, cracking and ripping sounds are heard somewhere in the house. When the dragon is described as shrieking as it dies, a shriek is heard, again within the house. As he relates the shield falling from off the wall, a reverberation, metallic and hollow, can be heard. Roderick becomes increasingly hysterical, and eventually exclaims that these sounds are being made by his sister, who was in fact alive when she was entombed and that Roderick Usher knew that she was alive. The bedroom door is then blown open to reveal Madeline standing there. She falls on her brother, and both land on the floor as corpses. The narrator then flees the house, and, as he does so, notices a flash of light causing him to look back upon the House of Usher, in time to watch it break in two, the fragments sinking into the tarn.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is considered the best example of Poe’s “totality”, where every element and detail is related and relevant.
The theme of the crumbling, haunted castle is a key feature of Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1764), which largely contributed in defining the Gothic genre. The presence of a capacious, disintegrating house symbolizing the destruction of the human body is a characteristic element in Poe’s later work.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” shows Poe’s ability to create an emotional tone in his work, specifically feelings of fear, doom, and guilt.These emotions center on Roderick Usher who, like many Poe characters, suffers from an unnamed disease. Like the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, his disease inflames his hyperactive senses. The illness manifests physically but is based in Roderick’s mental or even moral state. He is sick, it is suggested, because he expects to be sick based on his family’s history of illness and is, therefore, essentially a hypochondriac. Similarly, he buries his sister alive because he expects to bury her alive, creating his own self-fulfilling prophecy.
The House of Usher, itself doubly referring both to the actual structure and the family, plays a significant role in the story. It is the first “character” that the narrator introduces to the reader, presented with a humanized description: its windows are described as “eye-like” twice in the first paragraph. The fissure that develops in its side is symbolic of the decay of the Usher family and the house “dies” along with the two Usher siblings. This connection was emphasized in Roderick’s poem “The Haunted Palace” which seems to be a direct reference to the house that foreshadows doom.
L. Sprague de Camp, in his Lovecraft: A Biography [p. 246f], wrote that “[a]ccording to the late [Poe expert] Thomas O. Mabbott, [H. P.] Lovecraft, in “Supernatural Horror”, solved a problem in the interpretation of Poe” by arguing that “Roderick Usher, his sister Madeline, and the house all shared one common soul”. The explicit psychological dimension of this tale has prompted many critics to analyze it as a description of the human psyche, comparing, for instance, the House to the unconscious, and its central crack to the personality split which is called dissociative identity disorder. Mental disorder is also evoked through the themes of melancholy, possible incest, and vampirism. An incestuous relationship between Roderick and Madeline is never explicitly stated, but seems implied by the strange attachment between the two.
Opium, which Poe mentions several times in both his prose and poems, is mentioned twice in the tale. The gloomy sensation occasioned by the dreary landscape around the Usher mansion is compared by the narrator to the sickness caused by the withdrawal symptoms of an opiate-addict. The narrator also describes Roderick Usher’s appearance as that of an “irreclaimable eater of opium”.