Three Genres: The Writing of Literary Prose, Poems and Plays, 9th edition

Published by Pearson (January 27, 2011) © 2012

  • Stephen Minot University of New Mexico
  • Diane Thiel Univeristy of New Mexico

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Three Genres gives students a basic introduction to fiction/ literary nonfiction, poetry, and drama and helps them to develop their creative skills in each area.  Each genre section is self-contained and includes complete works as examples along with helpful advice about how to draw on the variety of techniques they use.  The style is informal, practical, and positive.  Minot and Thiel encourage students to draw on their own experiences and develop skills on their own.

New reading selections including works from Tim O’Brien, Joy Harjo, and Edwidge Danticat provide you with new selections to study.

  • More coverage of literary nonfiction with additional selections and instruction provide you with instruction on the fastest growing portion of creative writing.
  • Increased coverage of poetry including a chapter devoted to revision as well as additional examples and exercises offers extra instruction in this important genre.
  • Additional writing prompts in each section provide more ways to practice writing techniques thus helping you become a stronger writer. dfdlkjf
  • Added suggestions and discussions throughout, focusing on the way one genre informs another help you learn the similarities among the genres.
  • "Poems for Self-study."  Twelve poems not analyzed or discussed   anywhere in the text to encourage self-study and classroom discussion.
  • The analysis of writing techniques in each of the three genres (poetry, fiction, and drama)—Always linked directly with a work that appears in its entirety. Presents poems, short stories, and plays written by contemporary authors and poets analyzed from several perspectives.  

                  Ensures that students are never left with abstract principles that are not illustrated.

  • Appendices on “Submitting Work for Publication” and “Resources for Writers.”
    • Provides practical advice for submitting materials for publication.

  • List of resources for writers.
    • Provides a convenient starting place for students interested in more in-depth study.

  • A chapter on Dialogue in Fiction.
    • Introduces students to the various approaches as well as uses

  • The "Trouble shooting" sections are placed at the end of each of the three sections for handy use by students or by instructors in their critiques of student work.  Instructors are encouraged to incorporate these when writing critiques of student work.  This section considers topics (arranged alphabetically, with page references) that often give students trouble.
    • Encourages students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their own work when revising; provides a positive approach to the discussion of work in class; and, it offers instructors a convenient resource for augmenting their comments on student work, urging them to review specific topics such as thematic unity in poetry, irony in fiction, or dramatic impact in a play.

  • The Headnotes at the beginning of each chapter include page references for each topic listed. 
  • The  Glossary/Index has been expanded making it the most complete of any text in the field.  All literary terms used in the text are defined with pertinent page references given for further study.  Insignificant page references (often found in computer-generated indexes) have been eliminated.

New to this Edition:

1.  Fourteen new selections have been added throughout, including nonfiction by Edwidge Danticat, short fiction by Tim O’ Brien, Jamaica Kincaid and Sharon Oard Warner, and poetry by a number of poets including Joy Harjo and William Stafford.

2. An increased focus on literary nonfiction.  The inclusion of nonfiction was a significant change in the eighth edition and was incorporated into Part I: Telling a Story: Literary Nonfiction and Fiction.  Many instructors find it effective to begin the course with literary (or creative) nonfiction in order to encourage students to explore their own lives.  In Chapter 7, they are introduced to the inventive aspect of fiction.  Instructors who would prefer to have their students move directly into fiction, however, will find starting the course with Chapter 7 logical and smooth.  The text is entirely flexible in this regard.

3.  The poetry section includes additional discussions and examples, as well as a chapter devoted specifically to revision, including an example of a revision narrative and several exercises for developing drafts.

4. The addition of a number of prompts in each section of the book, designed to offer students more ways to practice techniques and get their creative juices flowing.

5. Additional suggestions and discussions throughout, focusing on the way one genre informs another.




Preface for Students

Preface for Teachers




A. Literary Nonfiction


1. Literary Nonfiction: An Overview

2. True Experience

3. Nonfiction in a Reflective Mood

4. Impressions of a Real Place

5. “Westbury Court”: Literary Nonfiction by Edwidge Danticat

6. Creating Your Own Literary Nonfiction


B. Fiction


7. Fiction: The Freedom to Invent

8. Finding and Shaping Fresh Material

9. “Escapes”: A Story by Ann Hood

10. Viewpoint: Who’s Seeing This?

11. “Rwanda”: A Story by Stephen Minot

12. The Making of a Story

13. Structure: From Scenes to Plot

14. “A Simple Matter of Hunger”: A Story by Sharon Oard Warner

15. Creating Tension

16. Setting: Where am I?

17. “Obst Vw” A Story by Sharon Solwitz

18. Dialogue: The Illusion of Speech

19. Characterization: Creating Credible People

20. Liberating the Imagination

21. Three Flashes of Fiction:

“The Bank Robbery”: A Story by Steven Schutzman

“Stockings”: A Story by Tim O’Brien

“Girl”: A Story by Jamaica Kincaid

22. Heightened Meaning: Metaphor, Symbol, and Theme

23. “Gotta Dance”: A Story by Jackson Jodie Daviss

24. Style and Tone

25. Five Ways to Open Up a Story

26. Troubleshooting Guide: Fiction




27. What Makes a Poem a Poem?  


28. Plunging In: A Selection of Poems  

Robert Frost, “Design”

John Updike, “Winter Ocean”

William Stafford, “Traveling through the Dark”

Carol Oles, “The Gift”

Molly Peacock, “Anger Sweetened”

William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 29”

Lucille Clifton, “What the Mirror Said”

Chora, “After Spring”

Etheridge Knight, “Haiku”

Clement Long, “Always the One Who Loves His Father Most”

Maya Angelou, “This Winter Day”

Barbara Howes, “ The Bay at West Falmouth”

Robley Wilson, “On a Maine Beach”

James Bertram, “Is it Well-Lighted, Papa?”

Theodore Roethke, “The Waking”

Philip Appleman, “Coast to Coast”

E.E. Cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s”

Maxine Kumin, “Morning Swim”

Rhina Espaillat, “Bilingual/Bilingüe”

Craig Raine, “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home”

Richard Wilbur, “The Pardon”

Nikki Giovanni, “Balances”

Chase Twichell, “Rhymes for Old Age”

Donald Hall, “Names of Horses”

Joy Harjo, “She Had Some Horses”

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Famous”

Stephen Dunn, “A Secret Life”

Dorothy Barresi, “Mystery”

Theodore Deppe, “The Paradise of Wings”

Thomas McGrath, “Nuclear Winter”

Anita Endrezze, “The Mapmaker’s Daughter”


29. Sources: Where Poems Come From

30. The Impact of Images  

31. Using the Sound of Language 

32. Traditional Rhythms 


33. Stanzas: a Choice of Fixed Forms  


34. Free Verse: Creating Unique Forms  


35. A Sense of Order  


36. Varieties of Tone  


37. Finding the Form: A Revision Narrative with Exercises

Diane Thiel, “Memento Mori in Middle School”


38. Poems for Self-study  

Paula Gunn Allen, “Grandmother”

Joseph Bruchac, “Indian Country Again”

Christopher Buckley, “Intransitive”

Andrea Hollander Budy, “Burning the Letters”

David Curry, “To Those Who Are Programming Computers to Produce Poetry”

Jim Daniels, “Short-order Cook”

Dana Gioia, “California Hills in August”

R.S. Gwynn, “Shakespearean Sonnet”

Judy Kronenfield, “Maiden Voyages”

April Linder, “Dog Bite”

Rita Marie Martinez, “Going Bananas”

Edna St. Vincent Millay, “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”

Maurya Simon, “The Afterlife”

Pireeni Sundara lingham, “Lot’s Wives”

Jenniver Tseng, “Autobiography of an Immigrant”

Carolyn Beard Whitlow, “Rockin’ a Man Stone Blind”

David Young, “Love Song for Chloe”


39. Troubleshooting Guide: Poetry  





40. Drama: A Live Performance


41.  A Play by William Saroyan: “Hello Out There”


42. The Dramatic Plot


43. A Play by Tony Padilla: “Reckoning”


44. Conflict: Emotional Impact


45. A Play by Glenn Alterman, “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”


46. The Nonrealistic Play


47. Dramatic Characterization


48. Visual Impact


49. The Voices of Comedy


50. Dramatic Themes


51. Five Dramatic Exercises


52. Troubleshooting Guide: Drama





A. Submitting Work for Publication


B. Resources for Writers








About Stephen Minot

Stephen Minot, Professor Emeritus of the Creative Writing Department at the University of California, Riverside, has taught creative writing for over thirty years.  Over the span of his very successful career, Professor Minot authored three novels, two collections of short stories, and three textbooks including Reading Fiction and Literary Nonfiction, The Fourth Genre.  His short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and literary quarterlies including The Atlantic, Harpers, The Kenyon Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Sewanee Review, just to name a few.  Professor Minot’s work has also appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories collection and The Best American Short Stories.  He is also the recipient of the Atlantic First Award, the Saxton Memorial Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for writing.  Professor Minot and Virginia, his wife, split their time between California and Maine.   

 About Diane Thiel

Diane Thiel is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction and creative writing pedagogy, including Echolocations, Resistance Fantasies,  Winding Roads: Exercises in Writing Creative Nonfiction, Cross Roads: Creative Writing in Four Genres, and Open Roads: Exercises in Writing Poetry.  Thiel’s translation of Alexis Stamatis’s novel, American Fugue, received an NEA Award.  Her work appears in many journals, is re-printed in over fifty anthologies, and has been translated widely.  She has received numerous awards, such as the PEN Translation, Robert Frost, and Robinson Jeffers Awards, and was a Fulbright Scholar.  Thiel has taught creative writing for twenty years and is a Professor at the University of New Mexico.

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