is a professor of English at Joliet Junior College. He is the author of "The Vig of Love" (Glass Lyre Press), "Blasphemer" (Lit Fest Press) "Pointed...read more Sentences" (BlazeVOX) and five chapbooks, most recently "We All Saw It Coming" (Locofo Chaps).
Sixty Things I Think About Before Writing a Poem or Story
1. The most important thing is to create character. Create a living, three-dimensional character, inhabited by real feelings and thoughts, and motivated by real-life desires and fears.
2. Set your work in the real world.
3. Create real people who have real feelings and who exist in real situations.
4. Human motivation is basically simple. Universal, elemental desires operate within all of us.
5. The seven deadly sins are pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth.
6. A character is the particularization of a type.
7. Character drives action – not the other way around.
8. Real people think real thoughts. Have your characters think. The most significant action is always in the mind.
9. The wise are are not continuously wise. The foolish are not continuously foolish.
10. Find the “telling” detail.
11. Find the “telling” remark.
12. Find the “telling” action.
13. Avoid “drama.” Most life is not “dramatic” in the Hollywood sense.
14. Don’t create superheroes; they don’t exist.
15. Don’t create monsters; they don’t exist.
16. No real person is ever one way all the time. Everyone’s a mixed bag.
17. Explore the ordinary, but shun the mundane.
18. Life is not a story, but life does provide stories. Be alert!
19. We are surrounded by the material for art. Pay attention!
20. Don’t be boring. To avoid being boring, know what it is to be truly interesting.
21. Language is made memorable through attention to letters and sounds through consonance, assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. Make your characters’ language memorable and your characters will be memorable.
22. Ideas are made memorable through associations – examples, analogies, similes, and metaphors. Make memorable your character’ ideas and your characters will be memorable.
23. Pay specific attention to language in general.
24. Pay attention to your own language in specific.
25. Look at your writing globally and locally at the same time.