The Technique of Fiction Writingby ROBERT SAUNDERS DOWST
"A work of art is first cloudily conceived in the mind; during the period of gestation it stands more clearly forward from these swaddling mists, puts on expressive lineaments, and becomes at length that most faultless, but also, alas!
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"A work of art is first cloudily conceived in the mind; during the period of gestation it stands more clearly forward from these swaddling mists, puts on expressive lineaments, and becomes at length that most faultless, but also, alas! that incommunicable product of the human mind, a perfected design. On the approach to execution all is changed. The artist must now step down, don his working clothes, and become the artisan. He now resolutely commits his airy conception, his delicate Ariel, to the touch of matter; he must decide, almost in a breath, the scale, the style, the spirit, and the particularity of execution of his whole design."
Thus Stevenson, in "A Note on Realism," takes it for granted that the artist in pigments, stone, or words cannot reproduce until he first has produced, cannot show a perfect work unless he paints, builds, or writes along the lines of a perfected design.
Many books have been written on fiction technique, and the chief excuse for the present addition to the number is the complexity of the subject. Its range is so wide, it calls for so many and so different capacities in one attempting to discuss it, that a new work has more than a chance to meet at least two or three deficiencies in all other treatments.
I believe that the chief deficiency in most works on fiction technique is that the author unconsciously has slipped from the viewpoint of a writer of a story to that of a reader. Now a reader without intention to try his own hand at the game is not playing fair in studying technique, and a book on technique has no business to entertain him. Accordingly, I have striven to keep to the viewpoint of one who seeks to learn how to write stories, and have made no attempt to analyze the work of masters of fiction for the sake of the analysis alone. Such analysis is interesting to make, and also interesting to read, but it is not directly profitable to the writer. It is indirectly profitable, of course, but it will give very little direct aid to one who has a definite story idea and wishes to be told the things he must consider in developing it and writing the story, or to one who wishes to be told roughly how he should go about the business of finding real stories. In fact, I believe that discussion and analysis of perfect work has a tendency to chill the enthusiasm of the beginning writer. What he chiefly needs is to be told the considerations he must hold in mind in conceiving, developing, and writing a story. The rest lies with his own abilities and capacities to work intelligently and to take pains.
Therefore the first part of this book takes up the problems of technique in the order in which they present themselves to the writer. Beginning with matters of conception, the discussion passes to matters of construction and development, and finally to matters of execution, or rather the writing of a story considered as a bare chain of events. Then the matters of description, dialogue, the portrayal of character, and the precipitation of atmosphere are discussed, and lastly the short story and novel, as distinct forms, are taken up.
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