* writing notes … don’t do …

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 26, 2012

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

  • the “dream” the writer creates for the reader must be continuous; avoid interruptions and distractions which force the reader to stop thinking about the story and start thinking about something else

Les Miserable by Victor Hugo

  • Hugo gives in to the temptation, common in writers of historical fiction (including myself), of “showing off” his research. I studied it, I think it’s interesting, so I’m going to tell you everything I know.
  • This is a serious mistake, certainly for me, but even for Victor Hugo. (see ‘The Year 1817’ p. 119)

Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

  • the reader is suddenly transported from Fargas’ home in Portugal to Paris, with no transition.
  • The details of this change of scene are presented later (187-88).
  • Does this work?  I don’t think so.
  • It’s a technique similar to what Tolstoy does repeatedly in Anna Karenina.
  • Ah, crticizing Tolstoy – heresy!
    • NOTE: since making these comments four years ago, I have become less critical of suddent transitions, perhaps because I think I have learned to use them
  • long, detailed descriptions and lists of old books, which the reader can’t possibly absorb and likely will not read. What is the purpose?

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

  • avoid anything that distracts from the reader’s experience even momentarily
  • don’t over-characterize a minor character, making the reader think he is more important than he is; select one memorable characteristic that distinguishes this character from the rest of humanity and let it go at that
  • don’t present characters who are either all good or all bad. It’s not believable.

Write Away by Elizabeth George

  • avoid preaching
  • avoid dealing with too many ideas at once

The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer

  • The moment you moralize in your novel, your book is no longer moral.  It has become pious, and piety corrodes morality.
  • Don’t go into your protagonist’s thoughts until you have something to say about his inner life that is more interesting than the reader’s suppositions



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