Tag Archives: Catherine Brady

Revision and Subtext in Writing

Story LogicIn my writing class, we have finished studying Wired for Story. We have gone on to Catherine Brady’s Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction. Revision is always a topic in class and as I read Brady’s Chapter 4, p.68, I appreciated her statement:

“Revision is not engine repair; it’s not possible to lift out the carburetor, repair it, and simply return it in order to make the whole engine run properly. A work of fiction functions more like an ecosystem, in which the interaction between living organisms means that the effects of a small specific change might be amplified throughout the whole network.”

She ends that chapter on p. 69 with: “in the kinesthetic play of ordering and reordering events and scenes and sentences, the trick lies in keeping a loose hold on intention while staying alert for any opportunities that arise. By lucky accident and persistence, playfulness can arrive at the right arrangement to make silence speak.”

Brady’s reference to making silence speak is about several points one of which is subtext, a topic I’ve used in my handouts for the class these last couple months. Subtext has been called the underlying story or the untold story or knowledge gaps. A story with subtext has two stories, the literal and the figurative. It’s the figurative story the reader senses from the gaps, the silence. Brady says on p. 23, that “The real story…has never happened on the page, and yet the structure of the story enables the writer to articulate what is never directly stated.”

Brady quotes Hemingway on p. 52: “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction by Catherine Brady has important information for writers on every page, in every sentence. Catherine Brady


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Story Idea-Welded-to-Emotion

Story Logic

My last post addressed story ideas and how to write down the ones that come to you before the idea

disappears. This post will look at idea in more depth.

In Catherine Brady’s book Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction, she states that a writer can discover the

right plot for an idea. “But ‘idea’ is not exactly the right term. ‘Idea-welded-to-emotion’ would be more

accurate to the nature of storytelling and is central to its effects.”

Brady quotes Tolstoy who stated: “Art is the means of transferring feeling from one man’s heart to

another’s.” When the reader “steps in, is the imaginative act of story complete; only when her feelings

and her intelligence are called into play can fiction generate what Flannery O’Connor calls ‘experienced


Brady also quotes Aristotle, who said, “Nothing exists in the intellect that was not first in the

senses.” The difficulty is that what “coaxes emotional investment from the reader,” may be different for

one reader than another. The writer’s metaphor is understood by some readers and passed over by others.

The reader struggles to reconcile the tension. “A work of fiction can’t be reduced to a single, fixed

statement of meaning.” Brady quotes Flannery O’Connor again: ‘…when you write fiction you are speaking

with character and action, not about character and action. The writer’s moral sense must coincide with

his dramatic sense.”

A genuinely dramatic predicament is not only an uncertain outcome, “but the reader’s feelings about it

are unresolved until the very end.”

I highly recommend Brady’s book, Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction.

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Catherine Brady’s Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction

Story LogicA couple years ago, Catherine Brady spoke at the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch meeting. She impressed me and I bought her book, Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction. I highly recommend it as an indepth study for the craft of writing. Brady is the author of three story collections. Her Curled in the Bed of Love won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and The Mechanics of Falling was a winner of the Northern California Book Award for Fiction. She teaches on the MFA in the Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.

In the writing class I  teach, we finished Wired for Story by Lisa Cron as a class text. I recommended  we use Brady’s book next and the members agreed. I’m looking forward to reading it again. Each page is a jewel of wisdom.

For example on Page Five, Brady states, “Plot is an attitude toward the subject as much or more than it is a technique—an instinct for selecting those moments in the story line at which events offer the greatest promise for provoking uncertainty in the reader. Meaning is only compellingly elusive when the reader must struggle to reconcile the tension that arises from plot.” A few sentences later she quotes Chekhov, “The writer, like a judge instructing a jury, ‘is obliged to submit the case fairly, but let the jury do the deciding, each according to its own judgment.’ Like a judge, the writer remains silent at critical junctures—but not silent on which information is relevant to judgement.” Brady then quotes Milan Kundera, “A novel does not assert anything; a novel searches and poses questions…The novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question.”

Catherine Brady


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