- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Original recording
- Publisher: The Great Courses
- Audible.com Release Date: November 14, 2014
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00PLAMKSE
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques Audible Audiobook – Original recording
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It took me close to 4 months to listen to the entire course, and I have to say that I'm impressed. I've long been the kind of person who understood a topic better by understanding the implementation, rather than being the kind of person who could understand the theory all by itself. For instance, I understood continuations better when I realized that it was simply allocating the activation record on the heap rather than on the stack.
Similarly, this course can be treated as a set of instructions for writing fiction, but I chose to treat it as a discourse on the implementation into fiction, which gives insight about how great fiction is constructed. For instance, I find "stream-of-consciousness" novels a complete bore and cannot bring myself to read more than a couple of pages of Ulysses or Mrs Dalloway, but James Hynes' analysis of the techniques behind those novels as well as why they're considered great made them completely comprehensible to me. (It also absolves any remaining need for me to read those books)
Similarly, he analyzes Anton Chekov's short stories, and uses examples from Alice Munro, J.R.R. Tolkein, Dashiell Hammett, Herman Melville, and James Ellroy to make various points about how to go about constructing a plot (and explains what the difference is between a character-driven story and a plot-driven story), writing dialogue, the use of first and third person narratives, and when to use narration various painting a scene in detail. As with many college classes, he provides writing exercises at the end of each 30 minute lecture, in case you want to try your hand at some of the techniques he describes.
This is probably a great English literature class for those of you whose mind is like mine (i.e., prefers implementation over declaration/theory). I'm now even more sorry that my public University had so few spots in its creative writing courses that I was never able to snare one of the spots in those classes. While James Hynes might not be a great novelist (I never read any of his novels before starting this), he's a great instructor and quite capable of providing multiple examples for each techniques
The android Audible app (which I used to listen to all 12 hours of this course/audio book) is very well done. It remembers the state of your listening, and lets you resume precisely from where you left off at any point. I listened to this course on my android phone while hiking or doing other activities. It made a nice change from listening to music or NPR broadcasts.
Highly recommended, even for those of us who may never write a novel. This gives me more confidence to pick up one of those "Great Courses" at a good price the next time I find a deal.
I'm glad I came to this course after having begun to ghost write. The lessons I've learned by actually creating someone else's vision of a story mesh beautifully with what Professor Hynes is telling us in his lectures. He talks about structure and technique, of course, but he also covers topics like research, and the why of writing. I often found myself nodding vigorously as he discussed things like revising as you go vs. having to do it all once you've created a draft. (I've done it both ways, and I'll revise as I write, thanks very much, because by the time I hit the end of the story, I'm so sick of it that I never want to look at it again. For at least six months anyway.) His lecture on the balance between research and imagination struck familiar chords with me since it's often a difficult balance to maintain. Now, when I'm doing fiction research, I want to put a sticky note on my computer screen that says, "Don't' be a show-off!"
This is a course where the companion PDF is hugely useful because you will probably want to follow along and annotate, add bookmarks, and use the (substantial) bibliography to follow up on ideas in the lectures. But it isn't just for writers, or at least I don't think it ought to be, necessarily. Readers could benefit from listening, and learning what it is they're seeing on the page, learning what kind of planning goes into the books they enjoy, or perhaps why they didn't enjoy a particular book as much as they thought they would. Yeah, I know that's a lot of work, and no, it doesn't have a plot or a romance, or even a happy ending where the antagonist is foiled and the protagonist lives happily ever after, but if you love fiction, why not learn more about it? Writing has made me a better reader.
Possibly a weirder one, it's hard to say.
So for working writers, this course is valuable. For aspiring ones, it may be a little scary. For readers, it might be eye-opening. Something for everyone here, at least in my opinion. And how can that be bad?
I found the narrator/lecturer easy to listen to and the topics interesting. This is a very broad overview for beginner writers and is jam packed with information. I found I had to listen to one lecture at a time then stop so I could absorb all the information, not binge read like I do with novels. A lot of the information was stuff I've picked up here and there, but it was good to have it all reinforced and refreshed in my mind.