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Download/Read Write Away: One Novelist

Download/Read Write Away: One Novelist

Read online or Download Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life (Full PDF ebook with essay, research paper)
by Elizabeth George


Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060560447
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/15/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
199,689
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)

Overview

 

Bestselling author Elizabeth George has spent years teaching writing, and in Write Away she shares her knowledge of the creative process. George combines clear, intelligent, and functional advice on fiction writing with anecdotes from her own life, the story of her journey to publication, and inside information on how she meticulously researches and writes her novels. George's solid understanding of craft is conveyed in the enticing manner of a true storyteller, making Write Away not only a marvelous, interesting, and informative book but also a glimpse inside the world of a beloved writer.

 

Editorial Reviews

Birmingham News
“A fabulous book for writers.”

Related Subjects

  • ">Fiction Writing

    Read an Excerpt

    Write Away
    One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

    Chapter One

    Story Is Character

    Am I kidding myself about being a "creative artist"? Can I possibly be a creative artist if I approach this effort in so methodical and left-brained a fashion?

    Journal of a Novel,
    June 25,1997

    A large piece of Plexiglas covers the top of my desk. Beneath this shield, I keep bits and pieces to serve as inspiration or to cheer me up in those moments of bleak despair when I'm wondering why I've taken on one difficult project or another. Among these items I have a copy of John Steinbeck's letter to Herbert Sturz on the subject of The Grapes of Wrath -- I find his comments about critics particularly smile-producing -- as well as pictures of my dog, of myself grinning inanely alongside a wax effigy of Richard III from Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London, and several quotations from writers on one subject or another. One of those writers is Isaac Bashevis Singer who, in an interview with Richard Burgis in 1978, said the following:

    When people come together -- let's say they come to a little party or something -- you always hear them discuss character. They will say this one has a bad character, this one has a good character, this one is a fool, this one is a miser. Gossip makes the conversation. They all analyze character. It seems that the analysis of character is the highest human entertainment. And literature does it, unlike gossip, without mentioning real names.

    The writers who don't discuss character but problems -- social problems or any problems -- take away from literature its very essence. They stop being entertaining. We, for some reason, always love to discuss and discover character. This is because each character is different and human character is the greatest of puzzles.

    That's where I want to begin, then, in laying the foundation for my exploration of craft: with character.

    Not with idea? you may ask, aghast. Not with where a writer gets ideas? What a writer does with ideas? How a writer molds ideas into prose?

    We will get to that. But if you don't understand that story is character and not just idea, you will not be able to breathe life into even the most intriguing flash of inspiration.

    What we take away from our reading of a good novel mainly is the memory of character. This is because events -- both in real life and in fiction -- take on greater meaning once we know the people who are involved in them. Put a human face on a disaster and you touch people more deeply; you may even move them inexorably toward taking an action they might have only idly contemplated before that disaster was given a human face. Munich '72, the Achille Lauro, Pan Am 103, Oklahoma City, 9/11 ... When these tragedies become human by connecting them to the real people who lived through them or died in them, they become imprinted indelibly on the collective consciousness of a society. We start with an event as news, but we almost immediately begin asking Who? about it.

    It's no different with fiction. The trial of Tom Robinson is maddening, disturbing, and heartbreaking in its injustice, but we remember the trial long after it's over because of Tom Robinson's quiet dignity and because of Atticus Finch's heroic representation of the man, knowing all along that his client is doomed because of the time, the place, and the society in which they both live. To Kill a Mockingbird thus rises to the level of timeless, classic literature not because of its idea -- the innocence of childhood set into an ugly landscape of prejudice and brutality -- but because of its characters. This is true of every great book, and the names of those men, women, and children shine more brightly in the firmament of literary history than do the stories in which they operated. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Jem and Scout Finch, Captain Ahab, Hester Prynne, Sherlock Holmes, Heathcliff, Ebenezer Scrooge, Huckleberry Finn, Jack-Ralph-and-Piggy, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse, George Smiley, Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls ... The list can stretch from here to forever. With the exception of the last, not a single character is a real person. Yet all of them are, because the writers made them so.

    Once we have begun it, we continue reading a novel largely because we care about what happens to the characters. But for us actually to care about these actors in the drama on those printed pages, they must become real people to us. An event alone cannot hold a story together. Nor can a series of events. Only characters effecting events and events affecting characters can do that.

    I try to keep some basic guidelines in mind when I'm creating my characters. First, I try to remember that real people have flaws. We're all works in progress on planet Earth, and not one of us possesses physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological perfection. This should be true of our characters as well. No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spirit in a single bound. Would anyone want a person like that as a friend, tediously perfect in every way? Probably not. Thus, a character possessing perfection in one area should possess imperfection in another area.

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood this, which is one of the reasons that his Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time for more than one hundred years and counting. Holmes has the perfect intellect. The man is a virtual machine of cogitation. But he's an emotional black hole incapable of a sustained relationship with anyone except Dr. Watson, and on top of that, he abuses drugs ...

    Write Away
    One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
    . Copyright © by Elizabeth George. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

     



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