Archive for the ‘Narrative’ Category

…you owe it to your readers to set yourself the most difficult challenge that you have some hope of being equal to. With every book, you have to dig as deep as possible and reach as far as possible. And if you do this, and you succeed in producing a reasonably good book, it means that the next time you try to write a book, you’re going to have to dig even deeper and reach even farther, or else, again, it won’t be worth writing.

Jonathan Franzen, from Farther Away

(and see James Santel’s excellent review of Farther Away)



Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Commonplace Book, Narrative, On Writing

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight… it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, ‘Simba!’

Annie Dillard


Posted: Saturday, June 25, 2011 in Commonplace Book, Narrative

It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

Jonathan Franzen

… If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won’t survive the ordeal. People without hope not only do not write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have an experience.

Flannery O’Connor

Or, for a salvation plea you can dance to, there’s this…

The Basics

Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 in Commonplace Book, Fiction, Narrative, On Writing
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It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. – David Mamet


Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 in Commonplace Book, Narrative, On Writing

I prefer to discuss the human heart through characterization, and to address the human condition through plot. – David Mitchell

…  I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write…  You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop …  When you stop you are as empty as when you have made love... Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again…  —Paris Review

Just Do It

Posted: Sunday, January 2, 2011 in Commonplace Book, Narrative, On Writing

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

Louis L’Amour, 105 books still in print

Levi Bryant on character in novels:

Characters in novels should be written from the outside in, gradually revealing themselves through the perspectives of other characters…  The being of the character should always be slipping away, unclear, fraught… The identity of a character should be like a mystery in a detective novel, but without resolution. The points of view should say more about the person who views than what is viewed. But even that should slip away and be elusive…

More at “Characters” (and the comments are interesting, too).

Iris Murdoch“…make a detailed plan before you write the first sentence…  I have a general scheme and lots of notes. Every chapter is planned. Every conversation is planned. This is, of course, a primary stage, and very frightening because you’ve committed yourself at this point… The second stage is that one should sit quietly and let the thing invent itself. One piece of imagination leads to another…  The deep things that the work is about declare themselves and connect…. One should be patient and extend this period as far as possible…”

— from the Paris Review Interview

(emphasis added)