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My Most Innovative Work Archive

The following pieces are both fiction and non-fiction. Most of them use an interesting structure to shape the story's drama, or use a unique voice and sentence style. I include them here as samples for students of writing.

A Prayer Before Dying
This article uses frequent section heads, creating a Question & Answer rhythm. It also buries the lead, which means that the most sensational part of the story is not hinted at, at all, by the article's title, subheads, or opening paragraphs. Rather, the lead comes at the reader as a surprise. Getting my editor to agree that this story should intentionally bury its lead was not easy. But in doing so, I let the article be a story of life and death, and a story about a unique woman, before it turns into a story about scientific research being manipulated. This article won a couple awards and it caused a firestorm at the NIH, which commissioned a panel to investigate their funding of paranormal research. While you might assume this article angered the Spiritual/New Age audience, it actually did not. The tenderness of the way the story was told disarmed would-be critics. No less than Andrew Weil came out publicly and announced, "Bronson's right. We can believe in the power of remote prayer and other mystical phenomenon, but we should stop trying to invoke scientific methods to prove our beliefs." Read

The Tornado
This is a nonfiction story told much like a work of fiction - told from a single character's point-of-view, inside his head, with just the right amount of rich scene-setting detail. It's a beefy story, 40 pages long, but a page-turner. Everything about it feels like fiction - except it's real.  Enjoy. Read

Quality of Life
This is a short story. In the story, two potential futures are opened up for the narrator, and he lives out both futures, trying to decide which woman is right for him. It's unclear whether he's envisioning these futures in his imagination, or whether he's actually living them - until the end. It's also a story about life and death - or about death, and what cancer scientists call "quality of life." Palliative treatments don't extend a patient's life, but they improve its quality until the patient dies. Read

Tracking the Family Beast
This is a story with a unique voice. I wrote it in an age when "minimalism" was still the vogue in fiction. It was a fashion, but it was regarded as "best." That snobbery made me angry. I call this voice "maximalism" - sentences packed with elaborate details and asides. But not to the point of overloading or slowing down the story. When done correctly, maximalism feels like an urgent rush, with a breathless forward lean. Read

Bombardiers was written in an amalgam of styles that paid tribute to the greatest war fiction ever written, including the best-ever war novel, Catch-22. You'll notice traces of Tim O'Brien here, and Thom Jones. However, this is not a war story at all, but rather a story of two bond salesmen who hate their jobs. Back in the early 90s, I found it hilarious how businesspeople liked to invoke war imagery and the language of war to describe their workdays. So I took that idea and ran with it.  If you're a prose stylist, also note the way paragraphs open and close - while the customary method is to finish a paragraph when you finish a train of thought, Bombardiers breaks paragraphs in such a way that you feel like you're on a treadmill - mid-thought, you have to read on to the next paragraph. Sort of like each paragraph is a mini-cliffhanger. Also note that there is no white space in the text - no line breaks. Line breaks as "pauses" are another fashion of contemporary American fiction, and I wanted to write something that broke every dumb rule of fiction. For instance, these sentences are heavily loaded with adverbs. Adverbs have been attacked and criticized by minimalists for thirty years, and they are only beginning to find their way back into the sentences of fiction writers today. Read

The Trial
This is a beautiful profile told in a fairly straightforward way - until near the end. It's the story of a Mexican-American woman who never wanted children, and ended up with a son by accident. The son turns out to have special needs, and this mother, Rosa Gonzalez, makes endless sacrifices for her child until he blossoms. The trick to this story is that the reader can probably see that resolve coming - it has to come, right? - because where else could this story be going? So at the very point that resolution does, indeed, arrive, the story has to leap in a new direction - one the reader doesn't see coming. The point of the story is that raising a child is a mystical experience that can't be measured rationally. In that sense, the piece promises a "mystical experience" to the reader. Structuring the story so that it presents a kind of "aha" - and right at the end, not a moment earlier - was the trick.  Read