The Power of Scary Stories

Why am I drawn to scary stories? Because they're hard to write well, and challenge is always attractive to me. But also because fear is primal. Fear is part of who we are (or at least part of who I am), and I'm interested, more and more, in how people respond to what terrifies them. Psychological terror intrigues me most. I'm less interested in blood on the page than I am in perceived danger that might or might not be true

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

Unity of Opposites: A Storytelling Model

(Part 3 in an erratic series)

Structure is something many writers, especially short story writers, aren’t conscious of. If we are, most likely it’s in the form of the story curve – the classical approach to defining narrative structure – that’s been burned into our consciousness

For decades, the Fichtean curve almost exclusively defined the short story

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

What Is Story? A Journey of Understanding, Part 2

Like any evolving human, my perspective changes with time on some of the questions that preoccupy me. One of those that’s been changing (again) recently is my engagement with the question, “what is story?”

It’s been a long time since I fully subscribed to the Fichtean curve, or to a purely plot-based Aristotelian vision of conflict-complication-climax as the only (or even primary) definition of story

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

Four Characteristics of Any Successful Story

This begins a three-part series, written in reverse: this installment is the conclusion; over the next two months (on fourth Fridays), I’ll trace that conclusion back to its roots. It all swirls around an ongoing exploration that’s at the core of my writing (and teaching) practice: what is story – and how can we continue to make story new while honoring what it has always been?

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

Why Back Story Is Often the Wrong Answer

It comes up a lot in fiction workshops as we work to make stories better. I want to know more about the girlfriend (lover/husband/dog). And it’s an honest reader reaction. But whenever I hear it, I ask a follow up question: why? Which is to say, how would background information about that character enhance your experience of the story?

I ask that follow-up because I’ve come to see that more often than not when readers make that request, they are really asking for something else – something deeper – and that writers who respond to the surface request ...

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice