Frederick Busch, Girls

After reading three volumes of Frederick Busch’s short stories, his novel Girls caught my eye. I decided to give it a try. Imagine my surprise when Chapter Two—where the plot begins— turns out to be my favorite Busch story, “Ralph The Duck,” whose eponymous character Jack invented to help calm his baby during her brief traumatic life. Later he used the short story to satisfy a course requirement in an English class.

Jack narrates Girls. The reader spends a lot of time in his head, feeling his conflicts, anger, torment, and self-doubt.  I can’t imagine this novel written in third person POV.







The Bellboy

Late Saturday morning in July, after working a week in Bogota, I change hotels, a 30-minute cab ride from the modest but comfortable Embassy Suites to the tony Radisson. A quiet time of year – schools out of session, families taking vacations. A slow period in the lobby. No businessmen heading to the office, early for check-in and late for check-out. Late for breakfast and early for lunch. Unlike my typical evening check-in after a five-hour flight, tired and anxious to get to my room, now I feel like chatting with the desk clerk and the bell boy. Continue reading “The Bellboy”

Camping in Oman Desert



We planned it well. Rather Mike did. He’s a detail man. My sole responsibility was to accept his invitation to spend the weekend in the Oman desert.

I had a two-week gig in Muscat, where Mike had worked ten years for the petroleum company owned by the Sultanate. On a previous visit, I enjoyed a memorable evening with his family—wife Bette and four kids—dinner, conversation, and perusing the book Mike wrote covering the year-long, around-the-world trip he and Bette took before they had children. They drove an old Datsun and repaired forty-two flat tires.

On Wednesday, the end of the Omani workweek at the time, Mike picked me up from the office where I taught a class and drove me to his house for dinner. The kids were interesting and pleasant as before, two in high school, two in junior high, all active in sports and school activities. During dinner they joked that I was doing them a favor going with their dad because they were tired of the desert overnights. I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought they were trying to make me feel good. Continue reading “Camping in Oman Desert”

Murphy was my great uncle

It began with the garage door opener garage-door-openerand the lawn sprinkler.water-sprinkler-system Our double garage has a door for each car. The right-hand side opener worked fine except the courtesy light failed to come on, a common problem if one can believe the results of Google searches. To check whether the bulb has burned out requires loosening two screws, swinging down a plastic shield and testing the bulb in another socket.

The bulb was fine.

According to internet experts, the next procedure is an order of magnitude more challenging: remove the motherboard (circuitry panel) and replace a condenser held in by solder. After watching two YouTube DIY videos, I deposited the problem in my crowded later basket. Continue reading “Murphy was my great uncle”

A Look at Point of View in Fiction

Pick up any book on writing fiction. You’ll find a section on point of view (POV). Open any novel and read the first paragraph or two. Look for the pronouns. Ignoring dialog, if you find “I”, the story is told in first person and the author lets the reader see things and feel emotions through the narrator’s eyes. Otherwise, a character, usually the main character, at first referred to by name but subsequently by “he” or “she” provides the point of view. The reader sees and feels what that character sees and feels. Some fiction relies on an omniscient POV, where the reader sees and hears things that no character can sense. In other cases the POV changes from one character to another.

Some writers treat POV with kid gloves, others are more casual about it. Every critique group has its POV maven.

How important is POV when you write a story? Are there rules to never break? What are the types of POV? What do the experts say and do? Can ignorance of POV destroy your story? To what degree does POV limit the narrative? Are there genres that must be written in one particular POV? These are some of the questions to guide us as we explore. Continue reading “A Look at Point of View in Fiction”

How many characters should inhabit your novel?

How many characters should your populate your story?

In a 2015 workshop sponsored by Houston Writers House, local literary luminary Ann Weisgarber warned to not have more than five characters appear in the first three pages of a story (short story, memoir, or novel). We did not take up the related question, what’s the maximum number a novel can support and how much does it depend on the number of words or pages?