the contextual life

thoughts without borders

books for writers :: wallace stegner

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conventional wisdom within the publishing industry says that short stories don’t sell—here’s why to write them anyway:

Basic to all fictional writing is the problem of point of view, the stance of the consciousness from which one chooses to make the reader follow the story. . . . The writer of fiction, however he may pretend to be invisible, is always there; he cannot help steering, cannot help providing some double vision, some commentary, insight, or irony. If he wants a reader to participate intensely, he adopts the point of view of one of the characters in the story, sees through those eyes alone, thinks with that mind, knows nothing that that individual would not know. If he wants to imitate the dramatic, he pretends to be a camera—a sound camera—as Steinbeck does in Of Mice and Men . . . He must be in his story but not apparently in it; the story must go his own way while appearing to act itself out. For this sort of skill, the short story is the best practice ground. It is so short that a flaw in the point of view shows up like a spider in the cream; it is so concentrated that it forces a writer to develop great economy and structural skill; and it is so intense that like a high-velocity bullet it has the knock-down power of  a heavy missile.

—wallace stegner, on teaching and writing fiction

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Written by Gabrielle

January 19, 2011 at 5:50 am

Posted in books

Tagged with , ,

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