Stuart Dybek is probably the most famous author that comes to OCWW (Off Campus Writer’s Workshop). This is my third time hearing him lecture, and he impressed me–like he did the last two times. Though I have to admit that he’s so smart he makes me feel dumb. This lecture was about endings. I won’t do justice to his thought provoking lessons, but here are a few of my favorite takeaways.
Nothing tops the ending. The narrative has to build on itself and end at it’s most intense/interesting.
The turn. This is what Stuart calls the signal to the reader that the piece (poem, short story, novel) is coming to an end. It’s a shift. Apparently, our brains really like the subtle heads up, even if we don’t consciously recognize it.
Objective correlative. Damn if he doesn’t bring this up in all his lectures. One day I’m going to really understand it instead of sort of having a glimmer of an idea of what it means. Though I did take away a related, mind-blowing concept regarding writing as a unique art. Basically, writers need to use language to take the reader where language can’t go. (I know what you’re thinking…”what the hell?”) Example: a word like “love” doesn’t really capture what love actually is. Love can’t be described, really. But sometimes, an image (or and object)…a picture can tell a thousand words…so we need to create pictures with our words. Those words or images or objects represent something more than just what is seen on the surface and can connect the reader to deeper feelings and experiences. That’s, I think, an objective correlative. Kind of. Maybe.
Last cool tidbit. The most powerful parts of any story are: the title, the beginning, and the ending. Everything before the title is white space, silence. As is everything after the last word. The ending has to support everything that came before it. That’s a lot of pressure.
As I go through my days learning about the craft of writing, the more I realize how little I know. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time. All that juicy knowledge out there just waiting to be discovered.