“Insinuating Life: Diction and Syntax in the Short Story” by Rose Smith (Fiction ’22)
Fiction alumn Rose Smith was recently featured with an essay in Craft. Read an excerpt and find a link to the full text below:
Insinuating Life: Diction and Syntax in the Short Story
Here’s something I am curious about: when is a well-placed flourish, maybe even a flurry of adjectives and adverbs, perfect for a story, and when are the simplest of sentences called for? Two stories came across my radar recently. I am in the habit of listening to The Writer’s Voice: New Fiction from The New Yorker podcast when I walk around Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas, where I live. First, I heard Kevin Barry read his story “The Pub with No Beer.” The diction (word choice) and syntax (word order) are surprising and idiosyncratic. The story is a marvel, truly, especially to hear it in Barry’s deep brogue. When I rushed to read it on the page, I found that the sentences delighted just the same. The hypotactic syntax soars and swoops across the page. Soon after, I heard Raymond Carver’s “Where I’m Calling From” on The New Yorker: Fiction podcast. The staccato delivery of the narration, infused with wry humility, communicated something new to me about this story. In contrast to Barry’s, Carver’s paratactic syntax and straightforward diction march across the page and yet the prose, like our protagonist, ends up disorderly nonetheless. Two stories could not be more different in their syntactical construction while touching on so many of the same thematic concerns: manhood, alcoholism, a life interrupted, a suspension of time, sanctuary. We could just say these are stylistic choices. One might say: this is how Carver wrote; this is Barry’s prose style. That may be true, but I am interested in parsing further what each author’s choices around syntax and diction are doing for their stories.
Continue reading here: Rose Smith | Craft