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Method and Madness: The Making of a Story: A Guide to Writing Fiction Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0393928174 ISBN-10: 0393928179 Edition: Revised

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Method and Madness: The Making of a Story: A Guide to Writing Fiction + The Best American Short Stories 2013
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 620 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised edition (December 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393928179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393928174
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alice LaPlante teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University and Stanford University, where she is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow. Her fiction has been published in the Southwest Review, Epoch, and Stanford Magazine, and her nonfiction has been published in Discover, BusinessWeek, and the San Jose Mercury News, among other publications. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The readings are great, but what I find especially useful are the examples.
Erin Donovan
This book comes highly recommended by graduate school professors and I have found it to be incredibly useful and instructive.
aksb
I guarantee you will decide to keep it next to your writing desk and often refer to it.
Soapsuds

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Soapsuds on May 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author LaPlante's textbook Method and Madness--The Making of a Story is a textbook you will not put down. You will be surprised to find new twists and turns on the subject and the various ideas of writing a short story, a novel or a novelette. For example, I was surprised and at first shocked to find out the everlasting dictum of "show and don't tell" have been misinterpreted. This is because high school professors and even college professors who continue to teach their students not to "tell" when writing, but to concentrate on "showing". LaPlante explains the "Show and Tell" idea in a clear understandable and clear way. This concept is explained in Chapter 5 under the subheading of, "Why You Need to Show and Tell--Dramatizing and Narrating". The chapter, as well as the rest of the chapters, is followed by a set of exercises the student and or reader may undertake in order to understand the nuances of the chapter. The exercises are followed by two short story readings. In this chapter, the reader is introduced to the short story titled, "Brownies" by ZZ Packer and "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor. Both short stories complement the "Show and Tell" ideas explained in the given chapter.

The textbook consist of fourteen chapters, an anthology of ten stories and thirty-nine readings. The chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1, What Is This Thing Called Creative Writing--The Basics?
Chapter 2, The Gift of Not Knowing--Writing as Discovery
Chapter 3, Details Details--The Basic Building Blocks
Chapter 4, The Short Story--Defining and Shaping
Chapter 5, Why You Need to Show and Tell--Dramatizing and Narrating
Chapter 6, Who's Telling This Story? Point of View
Chapter 7, How Reliable Is This Narrator?
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Erin Donovan on July 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had to buy this book for a short story workshop I enrolled in. I wasn't expecting much, having had lots of creative writing textbooks assigned by a lot of teachers, and frankly found them all to be boring and not-very-helpful. This one just blew me away. I thought I "knew it all" -- but LaPlante keeps challenging conventional wisdom. She gives you the deepest, most masterful explanations of craft I've ever encountered -- and then encourages you to make up your mind about how to use these tools. No imposing of narrow-minded rules that you all too often get in workshops. I have to admit, it made me want to go back and tell former colleagues in workshops...wait! I was wrong about that! The readings are great, but what I find especially useful are the examples. LaPlante doesn't ever tell you anything without fully illustrating it with an excerpt -- whether from a published masterpiece or from a student's work. So you're always grounded. Get this book. You'll be as grateful as I am to the teacher who assigned it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Sanders on May 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
The mixture of stories and methods of writing is interesting and very helpful to a beginning writer, as well as a seasoned one. I recommend this book highly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By college student on August 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was assigned this textbook for a fiction writing class and I think it's one of the more valuable books on fiction writing I have read. It has a lot of practical ideas for writing and revising. There are also many short stories that I found to be of quality writing and good material to learn from.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Winstead on September 27, 2009
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This book has tons of great pointers and exercises to help with dialogue, plot, and emotion. It also includes short stories written by the masters (O'Connor, Hemingway, etc) to illustrate the author's points about the certain writing components. Great guide for everyone, and while some may already "know" all this stuff, it's a wonderful reminder.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By brandon09 on May 25, 2011
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this book was very instrumental in my creative writing class. i learned a whole lot and will continue to learn and use technique that are taught. i knew nothing when i picked up this book but now i'm in a whole new world with new words to add to my vocabulary.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Hawkins on May 4, 2010
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I got this book for a writer's workshop at my university. The book came in a timely manner (and was way cheaper than what my classmates paid at the bookstore). The book itself is so useful that I decided to keep it for later use. Even if you've heard the advice before, there's something about it that motivates you to at least try the writing exercises.
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Textbooks on creative writing abound, and the question is what book to consider using and for what level, and what amount of info on writing and samples of writing are ideal? In the case of this one--LaPlante's Method and Madness--the right balance between advice and example has been struck.A book focused on fiction writing techniques solidly exploring each but which also cites poems and long admired advice from playwrites and poets, demonstrating LaPlantes wide scope of reflection on the writing life. This is a book which is also usable at a beginning or advanced level. It is a pleasure to read and think about, and the exercises she provides are stimulating. Great to accompany a course or just for a change of perspective for authors already well along in their own writing lives.
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