Last week I blogged about the fabulous storytelling skills of one of this country’s most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Wilder wrote about what she knew, the American frontier and farm life in the late 19th century. Her success stemmed from her ability to wring tension and detail out of universal emotions. Each of her scenes has a quiet simplicity; each also ratchets up tension to a payoff with technique that Paganini would envy. Whether she’s describing a struggle against nature (the omnipresent antagonist) or a schoolchild’s peccadillo, she never misses an opportunity to wring tension out of the scene.
Here’s another example from her third novel FARMER BOY, a depiction of her husband Almanzo’s days growing up on a farm in upstate New York. Wilder opened her story with a conflict between the kindly but milquetoast teacher Mr. Corse, and a gang of bullies terrorizing the school. Note how Wilder gradually ratchets up the tension… [Read more…]