Why Back Story Is Often the Wrong Answer

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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

The Story that Wasn't in Esquire

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In more than 20 years as a fiction writer, my second-biggest claim to fame is a 2004 issue of Esquire that does not have fiction in it. And the fiction it doesn’t have in it is mine.

This post is less about what happened than it is about why it matters. But let’s start with what happened. A few years earlier, I’d had a story published in GQ. The fiction editor who’d chosen my story for GQ had, in the interim, become the fiction editor at Esquire. She called me and told me she wanted to publish a story of mine in her debut issue.

Ron MacLean


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I am a writer, and therefore a thief.

Last week the most recent case in point. A Tweet of a line I liked, one that resonated and is likely percolating in my amoral brain even now: bad decisions I don’t regret. It was, I knew, the spawn of a conversation I’d had over a drink with a new friend. It was, in my mind, fair game. She didn’t fully share that perspective.

“Didn’t we kind of arrive at that phrase together?” I asked.

Ron MacLean

Craft Advice Different ways to learn to be a better writer monthly columnists Muse Author The Writing Life

Countdown to Muse 2014: Micro-Interview 3 (Ron MacLean)

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The Muse and the Marketplace kicks off on May 2nd at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. In anticipation of the conference, we collected micro-interviews written by authors, agents and editors who will be attending the event. This is the third in the series.

Micro-Interview with Ron MacLean



Learning To Plot

By Ron MacLean

In 20 years of writing fiction, I've never been accused of putting plot first. Plot as driver isn't where my instincts, interests or strengths lie. So what ever possessed me to write a straight-ahead, plot-driven, quasi-crime novel?

I fell in love with an idea, and that's where it took me. Writing Headlong has been a learning experience (in the way that falling off a cliff face while rock climbing is a learning experience). It has made me a better writer. It has brought me face-to-face with my limitations (hey, that's fun).

Ron MacLean

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