- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 4 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679734031
- ISBN-13: 978-0679734031
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 295 g
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers Paperback – Jun 4 1991
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"It will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend... In the first half of the book, Gardner investigated just what fiction is. In the second half, he treats specific technical matters. The Art of Fiction is filled with lecture counsel, wise encouragement." -John L'Heureux, The New York Times Book Review
"A densely packed book of advice to all writers, not just young ones... It is serious, provocative, and funny, and I recommend it to anyone who cares about literature."- Margaret Manning, The Boston Globe
"He lays out virtually everything a person might want to know [about] how to say it, with good and bad examples and judgments falling like autumn leaves in a November storm." -William McPherson, The Washington Post
"The next best thing to graduate workshop in fiction writing. Drawing on examples from Homer to Kafka to Joyce Carol Oates, Gardner unravels the mysteries of plot, sentence structure, diction, and point of view." - Book-of-the-Month Club News
From the Inside Flap
ardner was famous for his generosity to young writers, and (this book) is his . . . gift to them. The Art of Fiction will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer, it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend."--The New York Times Book Review.See all Product description
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The young sprogs (this is an assumption) who cannot see the value of this book are of an impatient generation; I suspect that they feel it isn't necessary to read much before they start writing, or to dig into the subject of creative writing before they begin to create. On the contrary, writing a novel is one of the most daunting activities known, and the deeper the writer's preparation, the more significant his/her output. If the preparation has no depth, the product will be shallow.
This is a book about words, using words, imagining words, how important authors have used words, the philoosophy of words and yes, much about writing. It is not a 1,2,3, list of how to write. Writing fiction is not a matter of bashing out words. There is a deep philosophy in creative writing, and every sensitive writer of fiction develops his own philosophy which leads to style. John Gardner approaches the subject from this aspect. Read it, read it again, and expand your mind.
This novel epitomizes intellectual snobbery. This quote is one of many statements in the novel that look down on any writer who hasn't produced a masterpiece of literary fiction. For all of Gardner's advice on good writing, he's produced a book that is is long winded and boring. It concentrates on books already written, not books you are trying to write.
With this kind of advice, I can see many writers losing their passion and confidence in their own talents and the stories they want to tell. Don't buy it unless you want to be talked down to and insulted.
The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, was published in 1984, long before the advent of online platforms that make self-publishing free and easy to any and everyone.
This is not your "How to Write a Novel for Dummies" and Gardner definitely would not have supported "everyone's right to publish" as proclaimed by many indie authors and the entire self-publishing industry.
Gardner felt that aspiring to be an author was almost akin to a "higher calling" and required rigorous study and practice. As well as hard work and sacrifice such a career choice came with duties and responsibilities.
The most important of which is telling the truth, and not just getting facts right, but making sure your fiction is believable and not perceived by the reader as a lie. Foremost it must "affirm moral truths about human existence".
Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader.
Though the book contains good suggestions on craft they're not presented point by point but rather embedded within the text. That means enduring a lot of with Gardner's rather academic, elitist attitude.
Is it worth it? Definitely - if you're serious about becoming an accomplished author.
Gardner does not believe in a secret formula to writing a good work of fiction, thus he explains common errors, technique, and plotting. He also explains different forms of fiction writing: the novel, novella, and short story; and discusses a few different types of stories one can write: the energeic novel, lyrical novel, and architectonic novel. He examines the limitations to different points of view, such as the first-person, third-person, and third-person limited point of view. There were also several group and individual exercises at the back. I fount that what was stated was quite helpful, much more than what many other writing books offer.
The following are a few points that I found useful:
-Fiction that ends up nowhere, with no win or loss, makes us think we are in a hurry, and later we discover that there was nothing to be in a hurry about.
-Fiction cannot have any real interest "if the central character is not an agent struggling for his or her own goals but a victim, subject to the will of others." (65) This is a common mistake for beginners. It is important for the central character to act because the readers then care about what will happen, the character's desires, and their values.
-To make the character's motives convincing, the origins must be shown throughout the plot. Thus, a lot of what goes into a story is because the writer needs it there to justify a later action, show the source of motivation, or to reveal a character trait.
-Don't use `that' or `which' to stretch out your sentence because it causes the sentence to have an anticlimactic ending.
-"Dig out the fundamental meaning of events by organizing the imitation of reality around some primary question or theme suggested by character's concern." (176)
-"Theme ... is not imposed on the story, but evoked from within it-initially an intuitive but finally and intellectual act on the part of the writer." (177)
-Research the theme to make fiction a serious thought. For example, if nakedness is the theme, then discuss if openness is a virtue or defect, what is said in Christianity and pagan myth about it, and how naked should people be. Search for connections between images.
-Create connections: our minds return to images and events, thus if the hero meets a person in the graveyard, then that "character's next appearance will carry with it some residue of the graveyard setting." (192)
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