Posts tagged stories

If a story is in you, it has to come out.
William Faulkner
booklover:

(via booktumbling)

Hello book … please take me away.

booklover:

(via booktumbling)

Hello book … please take me away.

poisonedreams:

Harry Clarke. Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. 1919.

Excellent.

Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don’t always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive…. Virtually every page is a cliffhanger—you’ve got to force them to turn it.
Dr. Seuss
millionsmillions:

Does a writer need a devoted spouse to be prolific? At The Atlantic, Koa Beck examines the concept of having a do-it-all partner like Vera Nabokov and if this traditional gender role only harms female writers. Koa interviews various writers, from Emma Straub to Ayelet Waldman, on how their literary partnerships work. “I’d fantasized that being his Vera was a way for me to deal with being stuck as a stay-at-home mom—I’d subsume my own ambitions into something ‘greater!’ But that lasted about 48 hours,” Waldman said.

millionsmillions:

Does a writer need a devoted spouse to be prolific? At The Atlantic, Koa Beck examines the concept of having a do-it-all partner like Vera Nabokov and if this traditional gender role only harms female writers. Koa interviews various writers, from Emma Straub to Ayelet Waldman, on how their literary partnerships work. “I’d fantasized that being his Vera was a way for me to deal with being stuck as a stay-at-home mom—I’d subsume my own ambitions into something ‘greater!’ But that lasted about 48 hours,” Waldman said.


Photo by Mirjam Delrue

Let your mind escape to many worlds.

Photo by Mirjam Delrue

Let your mind escape to many worlds.

What interests me about novelists as a species is the obsessiveness of the activity, the fact that novelists have to go on writing. I think that probably must come from a sense of the irrecoverable. In every novelist’s life there is some more acute sense of loss than with other people, and I suppose I must have felt that. I didn’t realize it, I suppose, till the last ten or fifteen years. In fact you have to write novels to begin to understand this. There’s a kind of backwardness in the novel…an attempt to get back to a lost world.
John Fowles (via booklover)
Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.
Flannery O’Connor; Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
theparisreview:

“I had scarcely begun when I realized that what I had here at the very least was the Great American Novel. I sent off the first 150 pages to [agent Bernice Baumgarten] and hung around the post office for the next two weeks. At last an answer came. It read as follows: ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this 150 years ago, only he wrote it better, Yours, Bernice.’ On a later occasion, when as a courtesy I sent her the commission on a short story sold in England, she responded unforgettably: ‘Dear Peter, I’m awfully glad you were able to get rid of this story in Europe, as I don’t think we’d have had much luck with it here. Yours, Bernice.’ Both these communications, quoted in their entirety, are burned into my brain forever—doubtless a salutary experience for a brash young writer. I never heard an encouraging word until the day Bernice retired, when she called me in and barked like a Zen master, ‘I’ve been tough on you because you’re very, very good.’ I wanted to sink down and embrace her knees.”
Peter Matthiessen, on his first novel.

theparisreview:

“I had scarcely begun when I realized that what I had here at the very least was the Great American Novel. I sent off the first 150 pages to [agent Bernice Baumgarten] and hung around the post office for the next two weeks. At last an answer came. It read as follows: ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this 150 years ago, only he wrote it better, Yours, Bernice.’ On a later occasion, when as a courtesy I sent her the commission on a short story sold in England, she responded unforgettably: ‘Dear Peter, I’m awfully glad you were able to get rid of this story in Europe, as I don’t think we’d have had much luck with it here. Yours, Bernice.’ Both these communications, quoted in their entirety, are burned into my brain forever—doubtless a salutary experience for a brash young writer. I never heard an encouraging word until the day Bernice retired, when she called me in and barked like a Zen master, ‘I’ve been tough on you because you’re very, very good.’ I wanted to sink down and embrace her knees.”

Peter Matthiessen, on his first novel.

The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.
Anaïs Nin

What really is “Good Fiction”?

Does a novel have to be culturally relevant to be “good”? Is a good storyline enough? What about strong characters, or nice plots with twists and turns? Lately I’ve read a barrage of articles in the Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The New York Observer, and other various periodicals about the state in which the novel currently resides . The outlook? Not so good, according to the critics and other literary types.

But why? Why the negative atmosphere about the state of the novel? Is it really that bleak? What’s the point of fiction anyway? Can a novel have a great story and still be deep and rich in its content? I think it can. In fact, I think all the factors mentioned above—strong characters, nice plot with twists and turns, good storyline, and cultural relevance—are all needed to make a novel stand out amongst the crowd and be great. However, not all novelists write novels with all these elements in their novels. But this doesn’t necessarily make their novels, “bad novels.”

Like trends in art as paintings change, trends in art as fiction changes too. When the Cubists—Picasso, Braque, Gris, and the like—arrived on the art scene, their work (which was more surrealist in scope) was not well received. In fact, most art critics shunned their style, their lack of realism (which was the norm at the time), and these critics just didn’t get it. A hundred years later, looking back, art critics now realize the importance of the Cubists in the movement from one genre of art to another and how their art reflected the time.

Critics of fiction today (e.g. Lee Siegel from his New York Observer article titled Where Have All the Mailers Gone?), lamenting the lack of Mailers in the current arena of fiction, I think, have missed the point of fiction. Siegel has reduced fiction to something that must be culturally relevant; if it isn’t, it’s a sign that writers today are merely writing as a means of profession and not as a vocation (a calling if you will). According to Siegel, writing as a profession churns out marginal fiction that is irrelevant. Writing as vocation produces works that speak to a culture that needs to hear the message. I don’t completely disagree with Siegel in that fiction was, and still can be, an avenue by which writers communicate necessary messages, via stories, to the public. However, I do think the public landscape has changed dramatically since the “Mailers” were turning out their messages. Not only has the public landscape changed, but also the way the public gets its information, and writers of fiction (and critics of fiction) must realize that while a message still needs to be given, the way in which the message is presented may need to be tweaked.

I say this, not because I think novels are currently irrelevant, but to say that writers must be more entertaining and clever at how they present their messages. A writer must compete with many mediums in order to be read. So there’s a need for writers to be more innovative in their presentation. It’ true, the “Mailers” have faded away to a large degree, but writers like Rushdie, Wallace (when he was alive), McEwan, McCarthy, Russo, and even Irving and King are demonstrating a certain dissent to the public about various issues in their works. They’re simply not presenting their dissent the same way Norman Mailer did.

I agree with Siegel when he declares, “If fiction were still urgently alive, it would not allow itself to be so easily formulated, evaluated and assigned a grade.” However, all is not lost to formula writing, all is not lost to what Siegel calls the “PR ploy of the magazine” [The New Yorker and its 20 Under 40 series], or the lack of seminal mischief in the world of fiction. All is not lost. But the public has changed, and if fiction wants to stay alive in the way Siegel wishes it would, then writers of fiction must find different ways to present their “message” to the public. Going back to Norman Mailer when Mailer is, perhaps, no longer relevant, is not the answer. Take Mailers’ method, push it forward, tweak it, improve it, and move on. If fiction remains something that is “untouchable” to the public, and does not move with the changes, it will become irrelevant, and Siegel really will be left to reminiscing about the “Mailer days.”

[I originally posted this essay here at Word Painting back on July 31, 2010. Here’s another look at it.]

littlebrown:

Thanks for the infographic, Canada.

Readers Save the World …

Create a world in which these things do or do not exist, or in which they are extended in some way. Test reality against this fiction. The reader will recognize the world that you’re talking about, even though it may be another one altogether
Theodore Sturgeon