Is Your Fiction Big Enough?

“I love the craft of fiction––the tools and techniques we apply to the parts or the whole of our stories. To help the books live and breathe and connect with readers.

There are techniques that apply to the things we can do, and others that help us identify things we ought to avoid. I call this latter group ‘speed bumps.’ The reader may not notice them consciously, but in subtle ways they interrupt the fictive dream. They are often the difference between a reader thinking, ‘That book was pretty good’ and ‘Wow! That blew me away!’

And then there’s a quality we can bring to our fiction that I haven’t really seen addressed before. It came to me one day when reading a story by the famous (and doomed) pulp writer Robert E. Howard.

For want of a better term, I call it the quality of bigness

So! How does one write big? Here’s the good news: you’ve already got what it takes. It’s inside you. Every writer has the capacity for bigness. What we need are ways to get it out of ourselves and onto the page. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Open Your Chest

You’ve no doubt heard the writing axiom that counsels sitting down at the typewriter and opening a vein. But I say bleeding is not enough. You’ve got to crack open your chest. You’ve got to create the feeling that you’re letting everything in and not holding anything back when you write.

Don’t think your way through a scene; explode your way through it. You’ll have plenty of time for editing later.

(By the way, Hemingway never said anything remotely like, ‘Sit down at the typewriter and bleed.’ So don’t forward that meme! It was actually the great sportswriter Red Smith who said it).”

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