Time is running out to submit to the 2013 Fiction Prize! With only three weeks left, we encourage everyone to dive in and submit their stories for a chance to win. In order to make the seemingly daunting task a little easier, we asked this year’s judge, Claire Messud, to offer some advice to aspiring fiction writers.
Claire Messud‘s novels include The Emperor’s Children, which was a New York Times Best Book of the Year in 2006 and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Messud most recently wrote The Woman Upstairs and teaches in the MFA program at Hunter College (CUNY).
She graciously took the time to answer a few of our questions about what makes a story memorable and how to write resonance in “a world of toothpaste and candy bars.”
IR: What catches your attention most in the first paragraph of a story?
It’s hard to pinpoint what, exactly, catches attention. But as a reader, you want to be swept into a world. You don’t need to know everything about that world straight away, but you need to believe in it from the first paragraph. There are lots of ways for a writer to accomplish that — through voice, through detail, through style, through setting. I think it also always helps for a reader to feel that the prose is conveying a lot, is working on different levels, right from the beginning.