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The Writing of Fiction

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684845319
ISBN-10: 0684845318
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Gore Vidal There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major" -- and Edith Wharton is one.

From the Back Cover

A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize - for her first novel The Age of Innocence. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short story, the construction of a novel, and the importance of character and situation in the novel. Not only a valuable treatise on the art of writing, The Writing of Fiction also allows readers to experience the inimitable but seldom heard voice of one of America's most important and beloved writers, and includes a final chapter on the pros and cons of Marcel Proust.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 8, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684845318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684845319
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This classic guide to the art of writing is as thought-provoking now as it must have been upon publication in 1924. In erudite prose, Edith Wharton describes the general aspects of fiction, going far beyond the surface to touch deep veins often unseen by casual readers. Using examples from the classics, she analyzes the methods of telling a short story and constructing a novel. She contrasts novels of character, such as Emma, with novels of situation, such as The Scarlet Letter, and discusses novels that weld the two types. The last chapter of the book analyzes the works of the great French author, Marcel Proust.

By studying this book and the works it refers to, one may perhaps develop the ability, demonstrated by Proust, "to reveal, by a single allusion, a word, an image, those depths of soul beyond the soul's own guessing."
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Edith Wharton was one of America's greatest authors, and her succinct overview of the key elements for lasting and serious fiction is first-rate. I have read others on this topic, including EM Forster, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King, but Wharton's tips still endure for anyone trying to write or read a serious or enduring novel or short story. Some of her key points: dialogue should serve the narrative and be used sparingly; the subject of a great novel should provide some insight on our moral experience; originality is not based upon a new technique or style so much as it rests on an original vision; and even minor characters should serve some purpose. Of course many novelists break these rules and succeed very well, but Wharton's insights are superb for any aspiring novelist or serious reader of fiction.
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I wish I had read this earlier. Wharton's every paragraph is filled with incredible insight that is just as timely and relevant as it was when written. I have never encountered a book on the art of fiction that was so memorable and valuable. Simply spectacular writing by one of the true great writers.
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Format: Paperback
Reading Edith Wharton’s book, The Writing of Fiction, enables the contemporary writer to visit the mind of one of the twentieth century’s most exceptional writers – the first woman to earn the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer was an even more remarkable accomplishment since the dutiful Ms. Wharton had willingly acceded to her mother’s request to never read a novel until after her marriage. She married in 1885 and earned the Pulitzer thirty-six years later for The Age of Innocence. Ms. Wharton is read today for her distinctive contribution to the craft of fiction – the creation of literary tension through the weaponization of etiquette.

Few features of the craft of writing animate Ms. Wharton more than what we now call point of view, and which she referred to as the point of vision, angle of vision, the character as a reflector, and the transition from one consciousness to another. We now consider unwarranted POV shifts as merely confusing to the reader. Ms. Wharton said that they (viewpoint transitions) are fatiguing and disillusioning. Her choice of disillusioning is hellishly clever. The task of the novelist is to create the compelling illusion that the characters populating a story could easily inhabit our world and were they to do so their internal governance would be understandable to us. A disillusioned reader sees words instead of characters.

The contemporary syllabus for fiction prescribes high concept as a core feature of literary fiction. As she set her own pen to paper (literally, recall, not figuratively) Ms. Wharton asked herself, “What judgment on life does it (the story) contain for me?” Nor does she stop there. “A good subject, then, must contain in itself something that sheds a light on our moral experience.
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Wharton was a Pulitzer prize winner for, if memory serves, The Age of Innocence. I was made aware of this one of her few non-fiction oevres by Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer. While Brnade's work is a classic and very practical as well, Wharton deals more with specific mechanics of fiction. I highly recommend both books.
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