How Fiction Works (Google eBook)

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Macmillan, Jul 22, 2008 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 288 pages
40 Reviews
What makes a story a story? What is style? What’s the connection between realism and real life? These are some of the questions James Wood answers in How Fiction Works, the first book-length essay by the preeminent critic of his generation. Ranging widely—from Homer to David Foster Wallace, from What Maisie Knew to Make Way for Ducklings—Wood takes the reader through the basic elements of the art, step by step.

The result is nothing less than a philosophy of the novel—plainspoken, funny, blunt—in the traditions of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. It sums up two decades of insight with wit and concision. It will change the way you read.

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Characterization has achieved life. - Goodreads
Readers see what makes for good or bad prose. - Goodreads
Wood never addresses plot, or pacing, or even theme. - Goodreads
All too often authors fall back on static imagery. - Goodreads

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nosajeel - LibraryThing

A useful comparison for this book is Aaron Copeland's classic What To Listen For in Music. Like that book, James Wood breaks down the different pieces of telling a fictional story from the narration ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - stillatim - LibraryThing

I confess, I came into this expecting to dislike it. But the first chapters were perfectly readable if derivative, and had enough small moments of insight that I was really keen to keep reading ... Read full review


A Note on Footnotes and Dates
Flaubert and Modern Narrative
Flaubert and the Rise of the Flaneur
A Brief History of Consciousness
Sympathy and Complexity
Truth Convention Realism

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About the author (2008)

James Wood is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer in English and American literature at Harvard. He is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and of a novel, The Book Against God.

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