* another look at what is IMO the very best book about writing fiction I have ever read

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 4, 2017


Write Away & Eliz. George


Every once in a while, I re-read Elizabeth George’s book, looking for refreshment of old lessons and new perspectives based on where I am in my own writing.

Here are my 2017 Elizabeth George refresher notes, along with some notes to myself …

  • Analysis of character is the highest human entertainment; each character is different and human character is the greatest of puzzles

  • What we take away from a good novel is mainly the memory of character

  • An event alone, nor a series of events, cannot hold a story together … only characters effecting events and events effecting characters can do that

  • Real people have flaws … are riddled with doubts … make mistakes … have lapses of judgment … experience weakness

  • Characters are interesting in their conflict, their misery, their unhappiness, their confusion … they are not interesting in their joy and security

  • Give characters flaws and self-doubts … put them into conflict … allow them to grow and change … LMW: characters may also regress

  • Create a written analysis of each major character … LMW: compare where Berthold & Anna are now with where they were before and where I expect them to be later

  • Look for opportunities to relate something about a character’s past … expand the reader’s understanding … do so through the character’s words and actions, not by telling about them

  • Personality quirks and telling details can have great cumulative impact on the reader’s perception of that character

  • Create atmosphere … setting triggers mood … a character’s environment shows who he is … everything else is interpreted by the reader

  • Your setting should be a place you and the reader want to know more about … LMW: Warsaw and Berlin in the 1930s … Auschwitz & Dachau … not a travelogue but as Berthold & Anna see them

  • In rendering a setting, rely on telling details … put your place into action … details in motion

  • Setting used to its fullest can elevate an ordinary scene into one which is unforgettable

  • Use the climate of a location … weather, sounds, scents, animals … stimulate the reader’s senses and imagination

  • Every person has an external landscape … a certain look, a way of acting, clothes, a house or office … all can pass information about the character to the reader … use specific and telling details … LMW: use Berthold’s SS uniform as a continuing motif

  • A character’s internal landscape is revealed in momentary reflections … also longer monologues (whether spoken or thought), letters, diary entries

  • Anything in a character’s environment can serve as an indicator of his internal landscape … LMW: Berthold’s recurring experiences of death … Dietrich … Mueller


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