Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

Overview

"This is the most practical, hard-nosed, generous, direct, and useful guide to writing fiction."—Brad Watson
Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page.
John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love ...
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The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

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Overview

"This is the most practical, hard-nosed, generous, direct, and useful guide to writing fiction."—Brad Watson
Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page.
John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love Warps the Mind a Little and Deep in the Shade of Paradise, demystifies the writing process. Drawing upon the wisdom of literature's great craftsmen, Dufresne's lucid essays and diverse exercises initiate the reader into the tools, processes, and techniques of writing: inventing compelling characters, developing a voice, creating a sense of place, editing your own words. Where do great ideas come from? How do we recognize them? How can language capture them? In his signature comic voice, Dufresne answers these questions and more in chapters such as "Writing Around the Block," "Plottery," and "The Art of Abbreviation." Dufresne demystifies the writing process, showing that while the idea of writing may be overwhelming, the act of writing is simplicity itself.
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Editorial Reviews

Alan Cheuse
“I used to think that the only books of this kind worth reading were John Gardner's and Janet Burroway's. I've made room on my shelf for Dufresne's.”
Ron Carlson
“Frank and friendly talk about the approach to and the craft of fiction....a welcome companion.”
Lewis Nordan
“This is the writing guide I've been waiting for.”
George Garrett
“Dufresne makes it all good fun, from first to last, from guggle to zatch. See for yourself.”
Janet Burroway
“An engaging covers-all-the bases guide—sometimes moving, often funny, full of goodwill and good sense.”
Steve Yarbrough
“Dufresne's literary intelligence shines through every line....I'll be directing people to this book for years to come. It's wonderful.”
Connie May Flower
“With uncommon candor, grace, insight, and clarity, Dufresne unmasks the Writer's Muse, allowing...a vivid and rich exploration of the creative process.”
Publisher's Weekly
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. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393325812
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/19/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 483,695
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dufresne is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Notable Books Love Warps the Mind a Little and Louisiana Power & Light. He teaches in the Creative Writing Department at Florida International University and lives in Dania Beach.
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Table of Contents

Introduction XIII
The Process
Getting in Shape 3
As a Matter of Fact 11
Writing Around the Block 21
Becoming a Writer 31
Pick Yourself Up 47
Sitting Alone in a Quiet Room 57
Getting Black on White 69
Doing it Again (And Again [And Again]) 81
The Meaning of Life is to See 95
Clishmaclaver 109
The Product
Getting Her Up the Tree, Getting Her Down: Beginnings and Endings 119
The Queen Died of Grief: Plot 133
Plottery: Plot 159
The Heart of Fiction: Character 169
The Method: Character 183
"Let's Talk," He Said: Dialogue 197
May I Ask Who's Calling, Please? Point of View 221
You Can't Do Anything If You're Nowhere: Place 243
The Art of Abbreviation: The Very Short Story 257
Other Matters
Reading to Write 267
The Writer Reads 273
Small Craft Warnings 289
Go Forth and Write 297
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2003

    A must-have for any writer's library

    If you've never had the pleasure of attending one of John Dufresne's superb courses on fiction writing, reading this book is the next best thing. Filled with his inimitable wisdom, humor and expert guidance on the writing craft, 'The Lie That Tells a Truth' is a must-have for any writer's library. It's a keeper that deserves a shelf all its own, and that's no lie.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2003

    Don't let a day pass without the insight offered here

    Combines Dufresne's wonderful narrative voice with his immensely helpful skills as a teacher. Makes you want to write and write with confidence. This is an immensly helpful book that at times is quite nurturing, while also very direct and honest in regard to the writer's life. Teaches writers old and new. The pull quotes are great, like hearing the voices of old advisors on reader's shoulders as they reitterate what this newer master of the short story and novel offers. I will read this again. I will teach it again and again. And most importantly, I will learn from it with each new reading. A long time coming, and I'm glad it's arrived.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2009

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