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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

'It's the atmosphere; the visual imagery'

 “I think almost always that what gets me going with a story is the atmosphere, the visual imagery, and then I people it with characters, not the other way around.” – Ann Beattie


A short story writer and novelist born in Washington, DC on this day in 1947, Beattie is noted for her dry, matter-of-fact irony – particularly in writing about the members of the Baby Boom generation.  Her keen style, especially reflected in Distortions, her first book of short stories, won her several awards for excellence in writing, including from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.


Her first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, was also made into a film. “I don't write about things that I have the answers to or things that are very close to home. It just wouldn't be an adventure. It wouldn't have any vitality,” she said about her particular style.

The longtime Edgar Allan Poe Chair of the English and Creative Writing Department at the University of Virginia, she and husband Lincoln Perry now live in Key West, FL. 


Beattie has this advice for writers who are trying to determine who should be their story’s narrator.  “Quite often my narrator or protagonist may be a man, but I'm not sure he's the more interesting character, or if the more complex character isn't the woman.  You have to figure out who the right person is.   People who are very self-aware will only sound as if they are pontificating if you choose them to tell your story.” 



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