Learning Stories & Sales Copy

I haven’t talked too much about the education I’m undertaking this year, but I also have substantial plans in that realm.

The first class of the year for me is Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing Sales Copy. I’m on the second week of the class. The first week of their classes are always devoted to history and the basics of whatever topic they are discussing. The second week is always substantial.

This week Dean gave us a basic pattern to use for back cover copy/sales copy. Our assignment is to create sales copy for three of our novels or short stories based on the baseline pattern.

It’s harder than it sounds. Last night I worked on the first one and it took me about an hour for the 96 words written. Much of that time I spent trying to compress ideas into punchy, non-passive sentences and figuring out a good tag line. Now I just need to do it twice more.

I also started the reading for April’s Writing Short Story Intensive. It’s about 40 -60 hours of reading short stories before the class. There is also a writing assignment, I think, but I haven’t received it yet.

The first short story by Edna Ferber, “The Gay Old Dog,” was written in 1915 and has a punch to it, a sadness at the end and a retrospective look back at the halcyon days of the 1880s-1900s. Since the story is written and set in 1915, the writer couldn’t have known the larger tragedy awaiting her characters. From the distant perspective of a hundred years on, I feel double gut punch knowing that just a few years later, the world will change utterly for them.

It is odd to interact with the past in this way because I really do care for the characters and their world. In the time it takes to read the story, I am part of them and hoping for the best. But at the end, I realize that the worst hasn’t even happened yet. As clear-eyed  as Ferber is in this story, she didn’t know. Oh my God! She didn’t know.

Steve is reading his way through Lovecraft’s tome and talking about what he finds there. It is the unknowing darkness that haunts characters and readers most. Lovecraft’s monsters are indescribable. Unspeakable. But we know the horror and it is all the more powerful for being unvoiced.

Reading Ferber was like that for me. But the horror is entirely unintended by the writer. She is like one of Lovecraft’s characters unaware that the true horror lies just a few years on.

Perhaps we are the same, dancing on the edge of an age of horrors we can only glimpse slantwise.

I hope not. But if it is true, we must undertake to spend our lives well and not waste a precious moment. Read good fiction. Love intensely. Dare great things.

Be well, friends!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *