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Posts tagged ‘Anton Chekov’

Storytelling and the art of letter writing

Lakshmi Pratury,  co-host of TEDIndia 2009, gives a 6-minute talk about the profound effect her father’s handwritten notes and journals had on her after he passed away.  See how she plans to carry forward his legacy.

Handwritten letters are a way to keep us connected with one another and practice our storytelling. In Carly Sandifer’s blog post, “Anton Chekhov’s six writing principles,” she discusses the different ways in which the great author used letter writing to advance his craft and inspire others.

Who do you write letters to?

Anton Chekhov: Eliminate the commonplace for lyrical writing

As writers, one of our tasks is to create mental pictures by combining just the right combination of words on the page. This is exactly what makes writing challenging, rewarding – and maddening.

Those times when I’ve hit a wall and need to step away from the keyboard, I find inspiration from the advice of Anton Chekhov, often called, “the father of the modern short story.” In a letter to his brother Alexander, Chekhov wrote:

“I think descriptions of nature should be very short and always be à propos. Commonplaces like “The setting sun, sinking into the waves of the darkening sea, cast its purple gold rays, etc,” or, “Swallows, flitting over the surface of the water, twittered gaily” — eliminate such commonplaces. You have to choose small details in describing nature, grouping them in such a way that if you close your eyes after reading it you can picture the whole thing. For example, you’ll get a picture of a moonlit night if you write that, “on the dam of the mill, a piece of broken bottle flashed like a bright star and the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled by like a ball, etc.”

Chekhov’s correspondence with his family and writing contemporaries reveals a trove of advice and insight.

For more Chekhov advice, read his six principles of good writing and an example of how he offered writing feedback.

One writer’s law: trust that more will come

I tend to view the world in terms of poetry, finding meaning and metaphor in everything from the way the rain falls here in the Pacific Northwest, to the process of replanting a lilac tree, to how my grandmother drags branches to her burn pile or shells peas while watching the sun set over the Olympic Mountains. This may be why I admire Raymond Carver’s poetry so much—because he writes about common people and events, yet manages to transcend their commonness into something beautiful.

When I first discovered Carver, nicknamed the great “American Chekov” for his short stories, it was his poetry that drew my attention. Carver’s last book of poems, A New Path to the Waterfall,written while he was dying of cancer, quickly became my favorite as I read it over and over, each time moved to tears, especially over the introduction by his wife and fellow poet Tess Gallagher. Read more