Tag Archive for #Tara Ison

Tara Ison’s words of wisdom

Tara Ison did the morning craft talks in fiction at Antioch this year, and she was fantastic.


Here are a few of her wonderful nuggets:

  • Theme is not something you want to prove. It’s a question, an inquiry.
  • “Fallacy of imitative form”: writing which too accurately mimics the (flawed or limited) qualities of the characters, story, or theme, and as a result cannot effectively communicate the experience to the reader.
  • the structural engineering of a story is centered on what a character needs.
  • Writers need to understand the story at the story level (what moves plot forward) and the driving level (what moves the character forward).
  • Need reveals vulnerability and allows the reader to empathize.
  • Need/obstacle comes from 1 of 3 sources: circumstance, antagonist, internal flaw.
  • The need and the obstacle need to be well matched.
  • Need drives behavior, not want.
  • Three points about setting: 1) it should be about the experience, not information (character’s reaction to the setting is an expression of why they are); 2) Setting is most interesting when something is happening in relation to the setting, adding another element to the story; 3) Crap. I forgot the third one.
  • Dialogue is not real speech. Real speech is boring.
  • From Picasso: “Art is not truth. Art is a lie that leads to truth.”
  • Cliche is always a problem of word choice, not the emotion that’s being expressed.

For more on her writing and books, check out her website here. I’ll be reading The List soon and can’t wait!