The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

John Dufresne, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-05751-5
A novelist and teacher, Dufresne (Deep in the Shade of Paradise) shares his blunt views on writing in this instruction book, which draws heavily on the tenets of realist fiction and method acting. Divided into two main sections--""The Process"" focuses on habits and emotions;""The Product"" emphasizes narrative mechanics--Dufresne's manual often adopts the tone of a fiery professor advising a group of wide-eyed young freshmen.""Fiction writing is arrested development,"" he declares.""Just know that you should quit right now if you can."" Readers may sometimes feel lectured by his many stern instructions--""Thou Shalt Not Be Obscure,""""Thou Shalt Show and Not Tell,""""Thou Shalt Steal""--but the author hits his stride when he covers the mechanics of story. Particularly valuable is his advice on choosing character names, occupations, and points of view. A principle of acting teachers Konstantin Stanislavsky and Michael Chekhov--that exterior movement leads to interior feeling--forms the basis of one of Defresne's two chapters on characterization. Elsewhere, he skillfully analyzes the work of his favorite writers Anton Chekhov, Frank O'Connor and Eudora Welty. (Dufresne also mines his own work for examples of process and technique.) Each chapter closes with a set of writing exercises. Although this volume is unlikely to displace classic fiction guides like E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, many readers may respond to the author's encouraging, exhorting tone.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 298 pages - 978-0-393-32581-2
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-393-07835-0
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