Carver to the rescue.

Raymond Carver



For the Shewrites bloghop:

Welcome Shewriters, Blogger Ball #5.

Thanks for your visit!

I’m on a fourth re-write of a short story.  I kind of like it.  I kind of also feel like some parts need to be “fleshed out.”  That dreaded phrase you hear when you think you’re done.  Ugh.  I’m posting this as a reminder to myself.  I asked myself, what the hell do my characters really, really look and act like?  I’m so enmeshed in them, they kind of float around in a world of fiction.  I need to touch them, pull their hair back as they puke, or take the crusts off their bread because that’s how they like them.

How do I get re-inspired and step back to see them sit down at my dinner table?   I scanned my bookshelf.  Which author on that shelf would show me characters who were so real, you knew them as neighbors, as guys in the bar, as family…who wrote  that concrete?

I knew Carver would drop into my hands.  I thought of the peacock.  I needed to re-read Feathers.  Carver’s details in this short story propel plot and develop character through their reactions.

Here’s the peacock part, where the word “peacock” is only mentioned once.

“What’s that sound?” Fran said.

Then something as big as a vulture flapped heavily down from one of the trees and landed just in front of the car.  It shook itself.  It turned its long neck toward the car, raised its head and regarded us.

“Goddamn it,” I said.  I sat there with my hands on the wheel and stared at the thing.

“Can you believe it?  Fran said.  “I never saw a real one before.”

We both knew it was a peacock, sure, but we didn’t say word out loud.  We just watched it.  The bird turned its head up in the air and made this harsh cry again.  It had fluffed itself out and looked about twice the size it had been when it landed.

“Goddamn,” I said again.  We stayed where we were in the front seat.

The bird moved forward a little.  Then it turned its head to the side and braced itself.  It kept its bright, wild eye right on us.  Its tail was raised, and it was like a big fan folding in and out.  There was every color in the rainbow shining from that tail.

“My God,” Fran said quietly.  She moved her hand over to my knee.

“Goddamn, ” I said.  There was nothing else to say.

The bird made this strange wailing sound once more.  “May-awe, may-awe!” it went.  If it’d been something I was hearing late at night, and for the first time, I’d have thought it was somebody dying, or else something wild and dangerous.

Carver uses voice and diction to develop the characters in this scene.  Also, find all of the active verbs going on in this passage.

I always seem to rush through scenes and not rest on them like Carver does so well.  Here, we don’t just get a sense of a random look at a peacock.  No.  This is a family pet.  The couple are eating dinner over with this family.  There’s an internal struggle where the wife wants to let the peacock in the house and the husband doesn’t.  These details reveal theme, character, and then propel us into the following scenes.  Even when the bird isn’t present, he’s still so much a part of the story’s meaning about couples struggles to stay together.

I recommend reading Carver.

Now, I have to take my own advice and leave you with the resonating “May-awe.”

Back to Shewrites:


16 responses to “Carver to the rescue.

  1. Hi from the She Writes Blogger Hop!

    That is a great scene from Carver. Short stories are a mystery to me, so kudos to you. Your concerns with your scenes reminds me of something my good writing friend once said: “write as much as you want the first time around. Describe the characters, get to know them. You can cut later. Cutting is a lot easier than adding back in.”

  2. Your blog is great! We share a lot of perspectives =)

  3. Hello! I found you on the She Writes blog Hop! As a newbie, I was very impressed when you mentionned that you are on your fourth re-write…And I will read carver!
    You can read my blog here

  4. Visiting for the first time from the She Writes Blog Hop. So glad to have discovered your blog. I love your idea of doing a blog to analyze word choice and I will be sure to visit for inspiration and education. Haven’t read a lot of Carver but I will take your advice and do so. Fiction writers amaze me. Good luck with your short story!

  5. I’ve never really analyzed Carver’s work, but now you got me hooked. I only recently began writing short stories after working on my memoir for 8 years and 5 revisions — probably more — it’s been so long. Got here from Shewrites and love what you’re doing.

  6. Hi, I’m dropping by for the blog hop. I love how you want to really know your characters. That makes for a better story. I think the author should know everything about his/her character, even if it doesn’t make it into the story.

  7. I’m also here from the blog hop, and I’m glad I dropped by, your blog is great! I’m also very impressed at your dedication to re-writing, I always find the editing the hardest part so the fact that you’re on your fourth re-write is incredible to me!

  8. I’m here from the hop and will definitely take the book rec; it’s one I’m completely unfamiliar with, but will get so!

  9. Nice reminder of how important details, description and sensory perception are in writing. Brava!

  10. I am a big Carver fan, jealous too, but still. You have a tight insight into your characters.. And yes, when I am not reading I am blogball hoping. Nice to meet you.

  11. Here from the hop!
    I love Raymond Carver, though I find his style completely inimitable. He manages a balance between terseness and description that no one can touch.

  12. I’ve never read any Carver. Thanks to you, I just might. When I have downtime between writing & reviews, that is.

  13. I also stopped by on the blog hop. I could spend hours here. You have a fascinating take on reading / writing. Thank you. I’ve never read any Raymond Carver, but now I’ve got to pick some up.

  14. Raymond Carver, I love how his work is so accessible to read and his world to enter, it feels simplistic, straight forward and yet it is such a challenge to create like that, he is an accomplished artist and story-teller and his works are still great teachers.

    He reminds me of Frank Sargeson another short story writer, some of his stories are only a couple of pages yet they have all the ingredients, I just keep reading and hoping for osmosis.

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