Learn the stories behind my stories as I give updates, discuss literature, and share writing advice. Find all my writing at www.tylerdunning.com.
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Follow the Fox

Monthly Newsletter

September 2013

Running the length of the underside of my right forearm is a perfectly straight burn. Once radiant with deep reds and damaged browns, there is now an itchy scab reminding me of the previous week's events. Up until that point I had been in Montana for one month. A time frame just long enough to turn my heart to tinder.

To turn my thoughts to fire.


September started with a self-induced stress created by the decision to apply to thirteen different creative writing graduate programs (these programs only accept about six people a year so it is important I apply to a lot with the hope of getting into just one). This decision then spurred the beginnings of filling out online applications, harassing people to write letters of recommendation, sending transcripts, paying application fees, studying for the GRE, writing statements of purpose, and getting a fifty-page writing sample ready. This chore started consuming all of my free time. On top of this, Montana is not how I left it. I have few friends remaining in the area, social events are sparse, and my bones can't handle the cold like they used to.

Weeks passed as I labored in front of my computer, telling stories and forfeiting sleep over all that was to be done. And I got lost somewhere in all this, forgetting about the person who'd actually earned these stories in the first place.

That was until September came to an end.

On September 25th, seven friends came to visit me from all over the country—some by plane and some by car. I've always bragged about coming from a nomadic tribe; these people only proved it. Strangers asked what their motive was for traveling to the Treasure State (a drive-through state that usually requires a specific reason for visitation) to which I could only reply: friendship sometimes runs deeper than reason.

I showed these friends my mountains, I showed them Yellowstone (luckily just days before the park system closed), I introduced them to my family. Most importantly, however, I introduced them to Red Mountain—my holy stomping ground. It was here that we reverted to the Lost Boys (and Girls) of Peter Pan and smashed china with baseball bats, took shots of drambuie and chased it with creamer, and built a 10-foot effigy of a fox for fiery sacrifice. It was in this madness that a flaming plank fell against my arm, scorching half an X into my flesh.


A week has passed since then and things have relatively returned to normal. I am in front of the computer once again; I am feeling the pressures of preparing for my future.

But yet, something is different. My body is more burnt and bruised than it has been in a long time, but somehow it feels healed. I know that loneliness is a very real thing and it is mine to bear if I want to take writing seriously, but I also now know I have earned friends far beyond what I deserve, I have a community that will support me to any end, and I will always be blessed by them at exactly the times I need it.

I know all of this.

And I have the scars to prove it.


[In other news, I got a new job this month. Based on my website, I was approached by Reserve America (North America's largest provider of camping reservations) to write articles for them. I now write one article a week about national parks, state parks, camping, hiking, destination travel, and scenic road trips. It is kind of my dream job.]

Two Cents:

In an attempt to get out of the house more and start developing some semblance of a community, I signed up for a local adult education class. It is called "Writing for Publication" and it is about what you would expect: entry-level advice, unchallenging work, and a minute group (there are 6 of us in total). But the class does get me thinking in unorthodox ways and presents fun writing activities that require spontaneous creativity. More than anything, it is nice being around others from diverse demographics who share a similar hobby.

One thing the teacher continues to instruct is this: strong character will carry a weak plot, but a strong plot will never carry weak characters.

Character has always been crucial to me. My parents first taught me the importance of it through example, and I later learned the breadth of it through my myriad friendships. I know incredible people and their lives have unraveled as very compelling plots.

And I suppose that is the greatest thing I have learned from writing fiction: what is reflected on the page is a microcosm of the world as a whole. It is important to create strong characters because it is important to be a strong character. It is important to challenge your literary characters because it is important to challenge yourself. It is important to put your character in an engaging story arch because it is important to live a story-worthy life.

We as humans are not exempt from the rules of fiction; our first task is to become the very heroes that books are written about.

The rest, I believe, will take care of itself.

From the Webs:

I'm pretty terrible at the internet. And by that I mean I don't follow any blogs, I don't properly know how to use Twitter, and I am more comfortable burning a CD and mailing it than electronically sharing music. With that said, I do know a slick website when I see one, and Medium's website is very impressive.

This is a website designed for people to share stories, ideas, and opinions on a unique and easy-to-use platform. One of my favorite features about Medium is that it tells you (roughly) how long it will take you to read each article and it allows you to leave marginal notes after each paragraph (something offering intricate feedback and user interaction).

If, unlike me, you are good at properly using the internet, I would suggest giving this site a try—it is a great place to both read and rant.

Book Talk:

Learning to become a literary writer is a demanding task. I say this because it requires the development of two very diverse skills: writing and storytelling. These two skills don’t necessary complement each other either; you can easily be a great writer and a terrible storyteller (and vice versa). I have heard it argued developing the craft of storytelling is more difficult of the two and a more unique ability—I would argue the same.

Most people think they know what a story is but fail miserably when they actually sit down to write one. This is because stories are complex creatures that act in subliminal ways—stories move us in ways that we are often unaware of.

A good book I recently read about storytelling is Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. In this book, Cron goes over the intricacies of storytelling, breaking down long-used formulas in understandable ways. Cron also explains why the human brain is evolutionarily-developed for storytelling and then explains how to appeal to these innate tendencies when starting a literary work. Each chapter of her book ends with a checklist of things to think about when creating a story.

I would recommend this book to anyone new to the literary industry or for anyone who needs a refresher on story craft.
Thank you for subscribing and thank you for the support! Please keep reading my stories, keep “liking” them (even if you don’t), and keep sharing them. The more support I have now, the more leverage I’ll have later when I start approaching agents and publishing companies. Until next month, love & tear-gas riots.
Copyright © 2013 Tyler Dunning, All rights reserved.
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