How Fiction Works

Front Cover
Macmillan, Jul 22, 2008 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 288 pages
613 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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Review: How Fiction Works

User Review  - Goodreads

I love how the book is organized by topic and then, within each chapter, by numbered sections/paragraphs. It makes it easier, when teaching from the book, to find specific passages. This is a great book to use with creative writing students. Read full review

Review: How Fiction Works

User Review  - Alex Menocal - Goodreads

This book is a series of excellent, thoughtful reflections on the ways that authors construct meaning in fiction. The author's expertise and depth of reading create a comfortable space for the reader ... 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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