From Poetry to Fiction

This summer, I’m teaching English 211: Intro to Creative Writing, a class I’ve taught a few times in the past. I split the course into two genres, poetry and fiction. The more times I teach this class, the more I realize there is a lot prose writers can learn from writing poetry, and I tell my students that, especially when some of them groan about having to write poetry. The genre teaches writers compression, to cut out all of the fat. During workshop sessions, I tell my students to ensure that ever word in their lines counts, and to remove what they don’t need, especially conjunctions and prepositions. This skill of careful editing  is useful in fiction because you don’t want your short story or novel to get bogged down by unnecessary details and extraneous sentences. Poetry teaches a writer to make every word matter, to capture a reader’s attention from the first line.

There are other techniques paramount to poetry that are useful in fiction, especially extended metaphors, similes, and concrete imagery.  In fact, image/metaphor/simile/sensory detail are the first techniques I cover in the poetry section. These tools energize the language and imagination, and they do the same things when employed in prose.

Right now, my class just started the fiction unit, and as someone who writes poetry and thinks about it daily, it’s nice to step away from my familiar genre. Meanwhile, the students now have some techniques they learned from writing poetry that they can use in their fiction.

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About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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