Pen in Hand: A Meditation on the Art and Craft of the Short Story

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iUniverse, Aug 2, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 56 pages
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"The connection which I have shown in this lecture to exist between the energy of the hearts contraction and the length of the muscle fibers, enables us to understand not only the marvelous power of adaptation of the heart to the varying strains of everyday life, but also the condition of this organ in disease, when from overstrain or morbid alterations in its muscles or valves it fails to carry out its functions with efficiency." What a beautiful sentence. It was delivered by the eminent physiologist Ernest H. Starling near the end of his Linacre Lecture given at Cambridge in 1915. When I was a young man editing manuscripts for technical journals, I was appalled by how poorly so many young scientists wrote. As the excerpt from Starling illustrates, scientific reporting was at one time rendered in well crafted prose. So, what happened? Style in scientific writing, as elsewhere, grew so transparent as to disappear altogether. My personal journey put me on a decades long path from technical to creative writing. Good writing is good writing, wherever it is found. My goal is to help you become a sculptor of words as you pursue the art of fiction. Some of what I have gleaned over the years, as heir to an older tradition, I offer to you in this extended essay.

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Writing Fiction
Introduction to Your Story
Fear Not Tradition
Short Story Versus Essay
Where to Begin
The Mystery
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Flash BackFlash Forward
Authorial Intrusion
Allegory An Extended Metaphor
The Suspensive Sentence or revisiting Miss Bascomb
The Relation of Speech Rhythms to Prose Rhythms
How We Speak Versus How We Write
Writing About Sex

The Elusive Concept of Style
The Opaque Style
The Transparent Style

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About the author (2010)

Ethard Wendel Van Stee began studying creative writing thirty years ago. He has served on the editorial boards of several learned journals and has had many years of experience on the podium in university lecture halls. He shifted focus three decades ago to biographical writing and fiction. He teaches creative writing in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Beaufort, South Carolina. Mr. Van Stee’s books include I Didn’t Come From Nowhere, the life of Marie Johnson, daughter of a slave; Moira’s Scythe, a family saga; The Remarkable Life of Frances Emily Steele, a novel; A Woman of No Means, the second Frances Emily novel; The Bloodstone, a novelized collection of linked murder mysteries from the casebook of Frances Emily’s granddaughter Amy Elizabeth Fletcher, The Hangman, the second book from the casebook of Amy Elizabeth Fletcher. Most recently Madimi and The Monks of Arden, both set in late medieval England have appeared. They are available from any of dozens of Internet booksellers or by order from your local bookstore. Google Ethard Van Stee for more than you ever wanted to know. Mr. Van Stee has been the director of the Beaufort Writers organization since 1996. He is known to everyone as Van. He may be contacted at His website address is

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