Leonard Cohen’s Song to Donald Trump


What a week it was—still is! I’m still crying inside. Yes, Leonard Cohen sent me soaring into mourning. Gorging on his music these past few days, I realized how he helped me appreciate the value of struggle. His struggle was an art form. I saw Cohen perform on an intimate stage at the University of […]

All Stories Are Escape Stories

Great Escape

“Every story is an escape story.” I’ve taped that slogan to the wall of my work station. It clarifies my character’s trajectory. It helps my story “come true” because it acknowledges a fact of our human condition: We are all escaping something. That notion hijacked my brain after a decade of professionally assessing and writing […]

Deep Travel: Have you ever gone too far?

Deep Travel

From Africa I flew to India. I would return home through Asia, circumnavigate the globe, prove the world was round, see it with my own two eyes. Bombay. Wow! The smells. The crush of humanity! A beggar with no arms or legs. My god, he had no face, either. His begging bowl—if you can picture […]

How Good Stories End


[Previously titled: “And Love Has its Way with the World”] I’m not saying that The Two Faces of January is a great movie. But the Viggo Mortensen character serves to show how many good stories end. It goes like this… And love has its way with the world. You don’t hear it, no one says […]

The Sense of an Ending


House of Cards, for example—the title says it all.  The collapse of the protagonist’s empire is not a matter of if but when.  Ambition is tragedy’s ally.  Desire is a set-up.  The world is a trap laid by (Satan, God, the fiction writer, you name it/her/him). Fiction can’t help but reveal secrets of the human […]

How to Make Your Story Come True

Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

When a drama rings true I want to cry.  I do, it’s true, I confess, I’m hopeless, when the story rings true I just can’t help it.  But in my defense let me put a finer point on this “ringing” business—I’m starting to say that the story has come true.  The protagonist has come true.  […]

Misdirection: the wrong way is the right way

Henry Shukman, author

After 25 years you’d expect a writer to know what he’s doing.  How fiction works—got it.  Story mechanics—check.  Structure—wrote a book about it. And yet I cannot swear that I know what I’m doing.  A story’s purpose, for instance—I suspect that a story’s meaning lies beyond mechanics.  There’s something more sophisticated going on, I can […]

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