September 2, 2002

Jim Dwyer’s third installment of “objects that have stories in them” involves a photograph

Related Stories by Jim Dwyer
Related Articles by Jim Dwyer:
Objects/The Photo
Objects/The Squeegee
Objects/The Medicine Dropper

Related Story by Roy Peter Clark
Squeezing the Narrative

of three children found in the rubble of the World Trade Center. While a photograph doesn’t have the whimsical allure as a squeegee, this story is actually more suspenseful than the one about window washer with the escape skills of a Houdini.

In both narratives, Dwyer seeds the sources of information. It’s done with a deft touch, so that the interruption by attribution is almost imperceptible.

Dwyer makes a key decision in this piece that differs from the squeegee man story. Here we have to wait to discover whether the children in the photo have lost their father. I suppose Dwyer could have quoted Tabeek early in the story, but this would have ruined the payoff.

This is a 1965 Mustang of a story, a streamlined form carrying an oversized engine. Tom French defines a story’s “engine” as the most important question the story will answer for the reader. Here that engine is: “Did the father of those children in the photo survive?” The reader experiences a moment of relief and joy when the answer is revealed.

Dwyer’s work continues to demonstrate the power of narrative when used in concentrated forms. We anticipate his new experiments with pleasure.

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Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty…
Roy Peter Clark

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