In the tradition of E. M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel" and Milan Kundera's "The Art of the Novel", "How Fiction Works" is a scintillating and searching study of the main elements of fiction, such as narrative, detail, characterization, dialogue, realism, and style. In his first full-length book of criticism, one of the most prominent critics ...
In the tradition of E. M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel" and Milan Kundera's "The Art of the Novel", "How Fiction Works" is a scintillating and searching study of the main elements of fiction, such as narrative, detail, characterization, dialogue, realism, and style. In his first full-length book of criticism, one of the most prominent critics of our time takes the machinery of story-telling apart to ask a series of fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we 'know' a fictional character? What constitutes a 'telling' detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is realism realistic? Why do most endings of novels disappoint?Wood ranges widely, from Homer to Beatrix Potter, from the Bible to John Le Carre, and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound, it incisively sums up two decades of bold, often controversial, and now classic critical work, and will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone interested in what happens on the page.
Woods gives you, the writer, very valuable insight into your craft. This book may take several readings to fully appreciate. It follows in the footsteps of E.M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel."
Let's say you are concerned with expressing the thought of your character. Wood takes you through the evolution of this process from the Bible to present.
His approach is to cite specific authors and their technique.
As a result of reading Wood, I looked at a major POV in a novel I thought I had completed. I realized that the character spoke in my voice and not his own. This provoked thought as to what voice would this character have? What would concern him? How would he form his thoughts and speech?
I can not promise you similar results because I do not know how deeply you are prepared to interact with Wood. But, if you are willing, the results are very worthwhile indeed.
Sep 11, 2008
Lives up to its title
So many books on literary criticism with so much confusion regarding "point of view", but this little book, such at treat to read, gives the best sense of author- reader relationship, I've ever read. If you are a writer, in any capacity, read this book. You will see why some fiction works. and some doesn't. And for you English majors, it's just something you have to know.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-04-21 Wood takes aim at E.M. Forster's longtime standard-bearer Aspects of the Novel in this eminently readable and thought-provoking treatise on the ways, whys and hows of writing and reading fiction. Wood addresses many of the usual suspects--plot, character, voice, metaphor--with a palpable passion (he denounces a verb as "pompous" and praises a passage from Sabbath's Theater as "an amazingly blasphemous little melange"), and his inviting voice guides readers gently into a brief discourse on "thisness" and "chosenness," leading up to passages on how to "push out," the "contagion of moralizing niceness" and, most importantly, a new way to discuss characters. Wood dismisses Forster's notions of flat or round characters and suggests that characters be evaluated in terms of "transparencies" and "opacities" determined not by the reader's expectations of how a character may act (as in Forster's formula), but by a character's motivations. Wood, now at the New Yorker and arguably the pre-eminent critic of contemporary English letters, accomplishes his mission of asking "a critic's questions and offer[ing] a writer's answers" with panache. This book is destined to be marked up, dog-eared and cherished. (Aug.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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