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Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course Reprint Edition

153 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312302764
ISBN-10: 0312302762
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Editorial Reviews Review

Musicians and artists might need talent to succeed, but writers don't, says Jerry Cleaver in Immediate Fiction. Cleaver allows that talent is needed to win a National Book Award, say, but otherwise, any of us can do it. All we need is the ability to "develop and exercise sadistic license." The operative word is conflict. As Cleaver puts it, "Happy lives make lousy novels.... If the characters are having a good time, the reader is not." He takes the mystery out of fiction writing. You don't have to write about what you know, he says; write what you can imagine. Don't fret if you can't find large chunks of time to write. Start with five minutes on weekdays and 20 on weekends, and you'll have 100 to 300 pages by year's end. Perhaps most refreshing about Cleaver's approach is the lack of directives. Some writing instructors demand that you work with an outline; others forbid it. Cleaver claims that teachers who tell you to do it one way or the other are telling you not how you work best, but how they work best. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Adages ("Want + obstacle = conflict"), advice ("Make all of your story worth showing") and even an assortment of solitary words author Jerry Cleaver considers important ("fear," "worry," "hope") stand out in boldfaced type on the pages of Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course. Cleaver, who founded the Chicago writers' workshop the Writers' Loft and has ghostwritten several books, insists that all one needs to be a successful writer is the "right tools" (while painting may require "inborn talent," writing doesn't) and in enthusiastic prose, he describes those tools one by one. With its writing exercises, time management hints and endlessly jocular encouragement, this volume will please many a would-be Welty or Wilde. (St. Martin's, $24.95 304p ISBN 0-312-28716-X)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312302762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312302764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

187 of 190 people found the following review helpful By David Tortuga on February 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I graduated a couple of years ago from a university that specializes in cranking out creative writers. (I apologize if I have not successfully masked my deep bitterness; usually I do a decent job of appearing well-adjusted.) I learned more from reading this book than I learned from four long years of higher learning. Mr. Cleaver is not vague. Somehow he managed to come up with a detailed, specific answer for each one of the countless questions I had when I began reading his book. (What constitutes conflict? What is the best way to end a chapter? What are the most common pitfalls, and how can I avoid them? And on and on!) If you are serious about amounting to anything as a writer, you need to read IMMEDIATE FICTION. The author's instruction and advice leave no stone unturned. There is no comparable book out there on this subject, with the possible exception of Dorothea Brande's classic BECOMING A WRITER. Yes, come to think of it, you should probably pick up that one, too. Five stars for both of them!
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89 of 91 people found the following review helpful By john r swift on February 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you want to become a better writer or a more critical reader, buy this book. Most offerings in this genre resemble a well picked over smorgasbord in which one finds a few good tips among acres of wilted lettuce. What remains of the main course, conflict creation, resolution and character development is incoherently scattered among the weeds. Cleaver gets it right by giving us a complete road map to writing, self-editing and publishing fiction. He shows how to convert your onmiscient narrator essays into scenes and dialogue that drive the plot, develop character(and keep the reader's attention), how to replace those "telling" images of emotion(e.g.,"icy stab in the stomach") with "showing" the emotion through thought and dialogue. Not only is this book a "sine qua non" for writer's, it is a fun read.
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126 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Susan Winstead on May 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have been writing all of my life and have read many books about writing. Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver is the only book about writing that I would put next to Dorthea Brande's classic Becoming a Writer. When Brande's book was published in 1934, the information she gave to writers was not only ahead of its time, but timeless through the many decades since its first published date. The same can be said and will be said about Jerry's book. In a time when "story" is driven by what is in the media and pop culture, Jerry tells us about what really makes a story - want, obstacle, action - thus, developing the characters and the conflict as the story progresses. I have several different stories and characters I have been working on for years and I thought I knew well. When I applied the - want, obstacle, action - my characters and their conflict developed better because I finally found out what they wanted. Jerry gives writers ideas about finding time to write, getting organized to write and completing projects that have lost their way. I cannot recommend Jerry's book enough.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Zone on February 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My high school english teacher, Mr. Severe, once told me if I really want to become a great writer I must read James Joyce's ULYSSES from beginning to end at least twice. I will never know if he was right because I couldn't get through that possibly great, but definitely puzzling book even once. But I did get through Jerry Cleaver's extremely straightforward IMMEDIATE FICTION, and I recommend it highly to anyone who truly wishes to succeed as a writer. The instruction I found in these pages was immediately helpful; I was able to solve a couple of problems I have had with my writing for years. Show me anyone else out there who has defined conflict so eloquently and concisely. When he writes about his discoveries in the strange world of writing creatively, I am consistently surprised by the thoroughness of his insights. I only wish he had published this book when I was seventeen. (I am almost twice that age now.) Please do yourself a favor and give this book a try.
...I heard he has a writing workshop in Chicago and I am quite seriously considering packing my bags and jumping on the next train heading to the Midwest.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By George on August 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jerry Cheaver has boiled down the writing process into a simple formula that you actually can keep wholly in your mind's eye when you write. The shorthand is Want + Obstacle + Action + Emotion + Showing. The slightly longer story that the prospective writer learns goes something like this: A character wants something desperately, can't live without it and cannot retreat from. When he confronts an obstacle that will not move, it forces the character to take desperate action outside of his comfort zone. When people are under pressure and acting in desperation, they reveal thier true inner selves rather than their surface personality. Conflict leading to desperate actions stirs up all kinds of deep-seated emotions of the character that lay dormant when life is routine. This is how the writer draws the reader in and gives the reader what they are really looking for: identification, to get caught up in the character's feelings and tribulation at all times, to agonize with them, to cheer for them. Finally, the old adage: show, don't tell, so the reader can enter into the fictive dream themselves, and experience through taste, touch, sight with the character. Now this sound pretty rudimentary, right? After all, like me you may have read a number, perhaps many writing books that tell you this and probably a whole lot more. A whole lot more. So you sit down to write and you get lost - character, pacing, detail, setting, subtext, blah blah arghhh! Why the despair? Because you know what great writing looks like because you've read great novels of heartbreaking artistry. What we can't get straight in our heads is that the heart of writing is having a great story that hooks and keeps a reader, and that, my friend, is nothing more than Want + Obstacle + Action + Emotion + Showing.Read more ›
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