Book Review: The Art of Fiction

A little while ago I went on Curtis Brown’s 6 week online novel writing course. (A bit of CPD that kept me busy for some time and helped me get the oomph back into developing ideas, but in a more structured way to how I’ve previously written.) I would thoroughly recommend the six week Curtis Brown novel course to anyone thinking about it. Great resources, exercises and a lovely platform to share work with other writers. I think the last one is key, and I feel very lucky to have met so many talented and dedicated writers that I will stay in touch with. We have already started another private forum for the purposes of critiquing one another’s work and to keep each other motivated.

One of the lovely people in our group shared a link to a free open university writing group recently so if you don’t fancy doing a paid one, I would join such a writers’ group for the purposes of critiquing. It truly is invaluable the support and advice that such a group provides.

I wanted to leave a little praise for this book ‘The Art of Fiction’ by David Lodge too. I read this shortly after finishing the CB course. One of the modules was on reading as a writer, which of course is essential as a writer. Indeed, it’s one of the things I used to fuss about – am I reading enough, how many books should I aim to read a month, am I reading enough to be developing as a writer? Phwah! No need to overdo things…there are plenty of people out there to point you in the right direction. And Lodge is one of them.

This book, written by Lodge, both a fiction writer and academic of English and American literature gives you a helping hand. From topic to topic with examples from novels, he showcases techniques and styles. He is informative and humorous so doesn’t feel heavy, but enjoyable to analyse. It has given me more books to add to my list with techniques and styles to focus on too, which I look forward to applying.

A few examples of the kinds of thing he covers. There’s a passage on commonplace topics like point of view, introducing characters and stream of consciousness. There are also insightful case studies of suspense, titles, names, ideas, intertextuality and much more.

A particular favourite was the passage on Suspense with Hardy’s ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’ (1873) to showcase the history of suspense and its use in the novel. In it we see Hardy’s character, Henry Knight whilst in pursuit of his runaway hat slip down a cliff. Hence the term cliffhanger we use today originates from here where Knight is left suspended (literally) from a cliff.

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