The world utterly forgot the Roman poet-philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus and his masterwork, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). Then in January 1417 an adventuresome papal secretary found a 500-year-old copy on a dusty shelf in a German monastery, and De Rerum began a second illustrious life that continues, still blossoming, to this day.  Continue reading...
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Last month I examined the first lines of novels and how authors use different strategies to capture the reader. This month I will be looking at last lines, the different kinds of messages they send, and how they can leave the reader feeling about the novel as a whole.  Continue reading...
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At age 56, I'm not yet a senior. But I'm starting to become constantly surprised by how young other people are — doctors, CEOs, even heads of government (the president of Kosovo is only 38, the president of Finland is 42 and even Barack Obama, at 52, is younger than me.)  Continue reading...
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What makes a good column? Like any piece of writing, a column needs a beginning, middle, and end — here starts the middle of this one. Beginning with a joke, as I did above, an intriguing question, or an outlandish statement may hook readers, but once you've got 'em hooked, you need to give 'em ideas worth listening to, or they'll quickly yawn and turn the page.  Continue reading...
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Here's the most dangerous thing I've ever done: When I was about 25, I went on a spur-of-the-moment hiking trip with an athletic friend who was back in Vancouver, where I live, for a visit. I didn't know where we were going, so I just threw on my hiking boots and grabbed a pack and the food I was asked to bring.  Continue reading...
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The first line of a novel has to accomplish many things at once. It has to grab the reader in some way with its immediacy, but also effectively introduce the rest of the book. A great opening line isn't a tweet, and it can withstand all the spoilers in the world, because literature is something thought through, and the pleasures are deeper than the next immediate payoff.  Continue reading...
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When beginning a story, a writer must decide, not only who will be in the story, what they'll do, and where and when they'll do it, but the point of view from which the story's people, places, and actions will be seen and described. Many options are available, and each one will make a big difference to how readers experience the story.  Continue reading...
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