How Fiction Works

Front Cover
Vintage, 2009 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 194 pages
3 Reviews

In the tradition of E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel and Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel, How Fiction Works is a scintillating and searching study of the main elements of fiction, such as narrative, detail, characterization, dialogue, realism, and style. In his first full-length book of criticism, one of the most prominent critics of our time takes the machinery of story-telling apart to ask a series of fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we 'know' a fictional character? What constitutes a 'telling' detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is realism realistic? Why do most endings of novels disappoint?

Wood ranges widely, from Homer to Beatrix Potter, from the Bible to John Le Carr , and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound, it incisively sums up two decades of bold, often controversial, and now classic critical work, and will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone interested in what happens on the page.

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User Review  - wethewatched - LibraryThing

A few good nuggets of advice in here on writing. However, the author can sometimes be a bit patronizing to read -- Wood tends to assume the reader has read all the authors he believes are the greats ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - idiotgirl - LibraryThing

Okay. I finished the book. If I had rated this half way through I would probably have said 4. The early stuff about language and free indirect discourse, the way the language of a third-person ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

JAMES WOOD is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer at Harvard. In addition to How Fiction Works, he is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, a novel, The Book Against God.

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