Teaching Friends

January 20, 2010

A friend of mine is taking a creative writing class, and she asked if I would look over her work before she hands it in. Sure. I’ve had a few other incidents of friends asking about stuff I know how to do in the past week, and although I enjoy feeling helpful, I’m starting to think about setting up formal classes with fees.

I’m also amazed by how much there is in creative writing that can be taught. My friend’s assignment required just one paragraph in her protagonist’s voice. There were some creative riffs in that paragraph I would never have thought of, but also a mound of technical aspects that I could comment on (ending sentences with prepositions was not one them):

Use of adverbs, interjections, and multiple adjectives. Varying sentence length. Consonance. Formal versus informal language. I didn’t touch on the cool stuff she came up with except to compliment the coolest part (which involved an aardvark). If she hadn’t rocked it, I might also have critiqued her use of imagery and metaphor.

All of which made me want to read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I’ve started it twice, but never got farther than the end of the first chapter. Opening the book at random just earned me some information about poetic rhythm within a sentence. Scansion marks everywhere; very exciting.

Mr. Gardner knows how to teach. Despite my recent helpfulness and visions of teaching profits, I still have a long way to go. I suppose I could start by deciding which side of this preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence issue I really want to come down on.