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Anne Bernays, a novelist and writing teacher, is the author of eight novels, including Professor Romeo and Growing Up Rich, as well as two works of nonfiction, including The Language of Names written with Justin Kaplan and What If? written with Pamela Painter. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous major publications, among them The Nation, the New York Times, Town & Country, and Sports Illustrated. She lives in Cambridge and Truro, Massachusetts with her husband, Justin Kaplan. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.
First sentences are doors to worlds. -Ursula K. Le Guin
New writers oftne find beginnings difficult--whether they're starting a story or a novel--because they take the word "beginning" too literally. They cast around for the "beginning" of a story--forgetting that beginnings rarely have the necessary ingredients for trouble, for conflict, or for complication. Your story can begin with dialogue, narrative summary, description, whatever, but it must begin in medias res, in the middle of things. You must resist the temptation to give the reader too lengthy an explanation as to how things got to this point. Remember, you are trying to hook the reader's attention, to pull the reader into your story so that he won't wonder, What's on television tonight?
Another stumbling block to beginning a story is that new writers think they have to know where their story is going and how it will end--before they begin. Not true. Flannery O'Connor says, "If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don't have to know what before you begin. In fact, it may be better if you don't know what before you begin. You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don't, probably nobody else will."
The following exercises are designed to encourage you to think about real characters who are involved in situations that are already under way--situations that are starting to unravel because of, or in spite of, the desires and actions of their beleaguered characters. Don't worry about middles or endings yet. Just give yourself over to setting stories in motion--you will soon know which stories capture your imagination and seem unstoppable, which stories demand to be finished. Till that time, begin and begin and begin.
S***tiest book in print. Was assigned it for graduate school and read the bare minimum of what I needed for class.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
It doesn't matter how good this book is, if you don't do the exercises you won't benefit from the collected knowledge of the authors. Read morePublished 2 months ago by paul billingham
Early edition of a book that has become a textbook in some colleges (thus, the current edition is priced much higher; my acquaintances in academia tell me that is because new... Read morePublished 4 months ago by pro_crustes
The women who wrote this book are talented writers and intellectual teachers. I was a student of Pamela Painter, and we used the latest version of What If, but because it was such... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Sarah L Sassone
I can recommend Bernay's book to teachers. It includes exercises for individual students as well as a few for groups. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Firefly13
Useful tips, great exercises... A must for my writing class and my own writing.Published 12 months ago by Jennifer
Filled with useful and inspiring exercises for beginning writers and experienced ones changing genres or just wanting to get better.Published 15 months ago by Stephen Fox
Thank you for writing this! I'm not even finished reading the book, and have not completed the exercises, and I have used the techniques and suggestions I've learned already. Read morePublished 15 months ago by just_kate