Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dreaming Fiction

Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler lets everyday details inspire his fiction. He not only lets them, but actively collects them, and uses bunches of details as a gimmick/ device/ conceit/ catalyst (whatever) for whole short-story collections. A group of postcards prompted the stories in Had a Good Time; a number of supermarket-rag headlines prompted Tabloid Dreams.

My friend Denise introduced me to Butler by recommending From Where You Dream, an edited transcript of his creative-writing lectures at Florida State University. He stresses creativity as a product of sense/emotion, not intellect, and shows how it’s accomplished. Even if you pursue nothing else by Butler, make it a point to stand in the aisle at a library or bookstore and read Chapter 4 (“Cinema of the Mind”) for his comparison of fiction and film techniques.

But if you do want more, read Bookslut's Interview With Robert Olen Butler.

And if you’re hooked now, FSU has archived Butler’s series of 17 webcasts that document his creation of a postcard-inspired short story … from pre-writing to final manuscript.

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