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Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form Paperback – April 17, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0393320213 ISBN-10: 0393320219

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320213
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An excellent study, first of its kind. -- Josh Allen, Queens College

An original approach; useful; excellent and lucid introduction. -- Wendy Coural, Cabrillo College

Bell does the best job I have come across so far of explaining what the traditional linear structure of a story is and why a story should have it. -- Jeff Minerd, co-editor, Writer's Carousel

Here are terrific examples of line-by-line reading of terrific stories. Bell offers the student reader terrific examples of line by line readings of terrific stories. I'm impressed -- Elizabeth Evans, University of Arizona

It's the first book I've seen that gets to the heart of the matter and won't let go....Useful to classroom writers and writing students of every stripe. -- Alan Davis, editor, American Fiction

Madison Bell has chosen fine stories by writers whose work is not shopworn by having gone from one anthology to another for years....His extremely detailed and often brilliant commentary can often take more pages than the story itself....This is the best book of its kind that I have seen since Lionel Trilling's The Experience of Literature. -- Clarence Brown, Trenton Times

Madison Smartt Bell's Narrative Design is one of those books you might need to take with you to your writerly desert isle. It offers all of the essential instructions for writing fiction, as well as providing wonderful examples of the end product, and then supplying brilliant analysis of them. His is a thorough, fascinating, forgiving, good-hearted, unique, and - most impressively - useful book. -- Antonya Nelson, author of Living to Tell Them and Nobody's Girl

Offers concrete advice for organizing fiction. -- Laurie Champion, Sul Ross State University

This is the book I've wanted someone to offer for twenty years. Structure is by far the most effective tool to teach beginning fiction writers. -- Sam Blate, Montgomery College

This is the most insightful, outright useful, most inventive guide to writing that I've seen. -- Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist

About the Author

Madison Smartt Bell is the author of twelve novels, his most recent being The Stone That the Builder Refused. He teaches at Goucher College and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By NaughtiLiterati VINE VOICE on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
I saw that pitiful lil stankin azz review and HAD to say something because this book deserves way more than two stars. For anyone SERIOUS about writing and actually *wants* to be in a class, this is the only book that I can think of that will actually deconstruct a story line by line and break down its significance into sections that make you discover how they work and WHY they work so well. The notes are so detailed that you will be shown things that you would have never figured out on your own, and it will teach you to read ALL work like that. You learn on a sentence level, a structural level and a thematic level and how to combine those crucial elements together, yet make it look effortless (if you're lucky).

I was sold with the very first story by Mary Gaitskill, who I positively adore. Then a Peter Taylor story? AND Ernest Gaines? Forget it! Bell combines greats with unknowns and offers up a true MFA level lesson on craft, with some amazing stories. I haven't seen a book like it and am SO glad that it exists. This is a must-have, which I say about a lot of the books I review, but if you think about all the writing books out there, there are only a few you really need and this is one of them. I don't write reviews for books I am indifferent about - I don't even READ them. So if you know what's good for you and your writing, you will get this jont! LOL
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chip Houser on August 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Narrative Design contains wonderful and informative essays on the writing craft. I haven't read it all, but what I have read is fantastic, and very helpful for an aspiring author.
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By Bookmom on December 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thank you
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