Tag Archives: Flannery O’Connor

Mystery and Manners, The Nature and Aim of Fiction

Mystery and Manners, The Nature and Aim of Fiction  by Flannery O’Connor

Review and Commentary,    February 20, 2017

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How does a writer write? Flannery O’Connor addresses this question in her  essay The Nature and Aim of Fiction. O’Connor’s grasp of writing is 5-star quality. In her short 39 years, she wrote 2 novels , essay, reviews, and  dozens of award-winning short stories.

O’Connor demands intelligence but also art. She says, “When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one.” So, we are left to understand that the meaning of a story must be embodied inside it. Clearly, we must experience the meaning of the story, not just state or label it.

The guidance in this essay is aimed at “story-writing” and offers precise insights about the creative process. No techniques here, O’Connor instructs that stories are organic and grow out of the material. If you are a seasoned writer, or a new one, this essay is a fast read and full of writing wisdom. I like her thoughts about “incarnational art” and the “process of understanding.”

She devotes a whole paragraph to “anagogical vision.” Curious about what that is and how it can affect your writing? Do you know how  “dramatic unity” functions in a story? These 10 pages are invaluable!

We all like to think that our fiction writing is an escape from reality with our fictional characters and fantasy worlds. Think again, says, O’Connor: “Writing fiction is a plunge into reality and very shocking to the system.” She reminds us that competence by itself is deadly. “What is needed is the vision to go with it.”

 “One thing that is always with the writer—no matter how long he has written or how good he is—

is the continuing process of learning how to write.”

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Provoke your writing! You can read the full essay The Nature and Aim of Fiction below (pdf).

The Nature and Aim of Fiction – Salem State University

Experience her short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

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My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.


How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career 
by James Scott Bell (book review here)

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
(book review here) 

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)

The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)

How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration, Editor Brunello and Lencek  (book review here)

Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

More Craft Books I’ve Read and Recommend:

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome.

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Filed under fiction, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, writing craft books

Backwoods Murder

A Good Man is Hard to Find    by Flannery O’Connor  (1955)

 

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    February 14, 2017

 

Dark fiction is known to be a broad category, but most agree it is the literary expressions of disturbing human nature. The stories are sometimes graphically violent. This story is not–it does have a dark truth and a riveting suspense.

 

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Genius.com

We are in the 1950s. Grandma and her family are on a road trip from Georgia to Florida.  Grandma’s son, Bailey, his ‘cabbage-faced wife,’ and their children—a bratty girl and boy—and a cat named Pitty Sing are headed through the deep South.  Family dynamics here are intense as you might expect on a long car trip.

Bailey, the dad: “All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.”

And then an accident happens.  That silly snarly cat. They tumbled into a ditch. And as it happens, an escaped convict, a killer named “The Misfit” is on the loose  in the deep South.

“Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.”

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The story isn’t horror but it will horrify the reader. Tightly crafted, it’s a superb tale of literal and figurative turning points. What struck me was the presence of the bird ghost, “bright blue parrots”  threaded in. Chilling effect.

 

 

This is bizarre Southern literature by an awe-inspiring writer, a master of form, Flannery O’Connor. She was an American fiction author and essayist, wrote novels and thirty-two short stories, and won a National Book Award and three O. Henry Awards. The famous  Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction  just celebrated its 30th anniversary at The University of Georgia Press. The award was established to encourage gifted young writers by bringing their work to the attention of readers and reviewers.

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place

and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”  Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor loved birds. As a child, she sewed clothes for her pet chickens. Peacocks were her favorite. She kept near 40 peacocks on her property. Visit her website: http://www.flanneryoconnor.org/

 

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Read A Good Man is Hard to Find (Finalist for the 1956 National Book Award in Fictionat Xroads.Virginia.Edu.

 

Listen and read along to the story (read by Flannery O’Connor) at Genius.com.

 

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of nearly 200 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, and horror. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

  Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 

The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

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Filed under crime thrillers, fiction, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense, tales of terror

Trees Bathed in Blood

A View of the Woods  by Flannery O’Connor  (1957)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    March 29, 2016

 

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We don’t normally think of Flannery O’Connor when we want to read a mystery. A View of the Woods is an ‘uncomfortable mystery’ and one that goes deep. Would we expect anything less from the queen of southern literature, Flannery O’Connor? This short tale is Christian-haunted, a human brutality with a demonic force. Characterization here is compelling and won’t let you close the book.

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Mary Fortune is nine years old. A cute spunky little girl and her grandfather’s favorite—because Mary is just like the grandfather. But this old guy, Mr. Fortune, is driven by so much pride and obsessed with progress, the result becomes bloody and tragic. There’s no supernatural elements going on unless you recognize a visionary moment by the grandfather. But there is a whole lot of symbolism going on. The woods are often places of fear and vulnerability. In this story, we see how a person can closed his eyes to the ‘hellish red trunks that rise up in a blackwood.’ Viewing the woods is not all the grandfather finally sees.

 

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The third time he [Mr. Fortune] got up to look at the woods, it was almost six o’clock and the gaunt trunks appeared to be raised in a pool of red light that gushed from the almost hidden sun setting behind them. The old man stared for some time, as if for a prolonged instant he were caught up out of the rattle of everything that led to the future and were held there in the midst of an uncomfortable mystery that he had not apprehended before. He saw it, in his hallucination, as if someone were wounded behind the woods and the trees were bathed in blood.

Watch for the color yellow symbolism here. O’Connor does this brilliantly.

Read the short story from Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories via PDF (scroll down to page 343).

 

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Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, won a National Book Award for Fiction in 1972. She wrote over 30 short stories and 2 novels.

 

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under fiction, literary horror, literature, mysteries, psychological horror, quiet horror, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror