The Writing of Fiction

Overview

A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize — for her first novel The Age of Innocence.
In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$9.97
BN.com price
(Save 23%)$12.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (16) from $3.92   
  • New (9) from $6.99   
  • Used (7) from $3.92   
The Writing of Fiction

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.46
BN.com price

Overview

A rare work of nonfiction from Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction contains brilliant advice on writing from the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize — for her first novel The Age of Innocence.
In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short story, the construction of a novel, and the importance of character and situation in the novel.
Not only a valuable treatise on the art of writing, The Writing of Fiction also allows readers to experience the inimitable but seldom heard voice of one of America's most important and beloved writers, and includes a final chapter on the pros and cons of Marcel Proust.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Gore Vidal There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major" — and Edith Wharton is one.
From the Publisher
Gore Vidal

There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major" — and Edith Wharton is one.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684845319
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 10/8/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 787,352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Edith Wharton was born in 1862 into one of New York's older and richer families, and was educated here and abroad. Her works include The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth, and Roman Fever and Other Stories. As a keen observer and chronicler of society, she is without peer. Edith Wharton died in France in 1937.

Biography

Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.

After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, enjoyed considerable Literary Success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist. Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.

In 1913 Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. When World War I broke out, she organized hostels for refugees, worked as a fund-raiser, and wrote for American publications from battlefield frontlines. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her courage and distinguished work.

The Age of Innocence, a novel about New York in the 1870s, earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 -- the first time the award had been bestowed upon a woman. Wharton traveled throughout Europe to encourage young authors. She also continued to write, lying in her bed every morning, as she had always done, dropping each newly penned page on the floor to be collected and arranged when she was finished. Wharton suffered a stroke and died on August 11, 1937. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Age of Innocence.

Good To Know

Upon the publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, Wharton became an instant celebrity, and the the book was an instant bestseller, with 80,000 copies ordered from Scribner's six weeks after its release.

Wharton had a great fondness for dogs, and owned several throughout her life.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 24, 1862
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 11, 1937
    2. Place of Death:
      Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In General

To treat of the practice of fiction is to deal with the newest, most fluid and least formulated of the arts. The exploration of origins is always fascinating; but the attempt to relate the modern novel to the tale of Joseph and his Brethren is of purely historic interest.

Modern fiction really began when the "action" of the novel was transferred from the street to the soul; and this step was probably first taken when Madame de La Fayette, in the seventeenth century, wrote a little story called "La Princesse de Clèves," a story of hopeless love and mute renunciation in which the stately tenor of the lives depicted is hardly ruffled by the exultations and agonies succeeding each other below the surface.

The next advance was made when the protagonists of this new inner drama were transformed from conventionalized puppets — the hero, the heroine, the villain, the heavy father and so on — into breathing and recognizable human beings. Here again a French novelist — the Abbé Prévost — led the way with "Manon Lescaut"; but his drawing of character seems summary and schematic when his people are compared with the first great figure in modern fiction — the appalling "Neveu de Rameau." It was not till long after Diderot's death that the author of so many brilliant tales peopled with eighteenth century puppets was found, in the creation of that one sordid, cynical and desolately human figure, to have anticipated not only Balzac but Dostoievsky.

But even from "Manon Lescaut" and the "Neveu de Rameau," even from Lesage, Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Scott, modern fiction is differentiated by the great dividing geniuses of Balzac and Stendhal. Save for that one amazing accident of Diderot's, Balzac was the first not only to see his people, physically and morally, in their habit as they lived, with all their personal hobbies and infirmities, and make the reader see them, but to draw his dramatic action as much from the relation of his characters to their houses, streets, towns, professions, inherited habits and opinions, as from their fortuitous contacts with each other.

Balzac himself ascribed the priority in this kind of realism to Scott, from whom the younger novelist avowedly derived his chief inspiration. But, as Balzac observed, Scott, so keen and direct in surveying the rest of his field of vision, became conventional and hypocritical when he touched on love and women. In deference to the wave of prudery which overswept England after the vulgar excesses of the Hanoverian court he substituted sentimentality for passion, and reduced his heroines to "Keepsake" insipidities; whereas in the firm surface of Balzac's realism there is hardly a flaw, and his women, the young as well as the old, are living people, as much compact of human contradictions and torn with human passions as his misers, his financiers, his priests or his doctors.

Stendhal, though as indifferent as any eighteenth century writer to atmosphere and "local colour," is intensely modern and realistic in the individualizing of his characters, who were never types (to the extent even of some of Balzac's) but always sharply differentiated and particular human beings. More distinctively still does he represent the new fiction by his insight into the springs of social action. No modern novelist has ever gone nearer than Racine did in his tragedies to the sources of personal, of individual feeling; and some of the French novelists of the eighteenth century are still unsurpassed (save by Racine) in the last refinements of individual soul-analysis. What was new in both Balzac and Stendhal was the fact of their viewing each character first of all as a product of particular material and social conditions, as being thus or thus because of the calling he pursued or the house he lived in (Balzac), or the society he wanted to get into (Stendhal), or the acre of ground he coveted, or the powerful or fashionable personage he aped or envied (both Balzac and Stendhal). These novelists (with the solitary exception of Defoe, when he wrote "Moll Flanders") are the first to seem continuously aware that the bounds of a personality are not reproducible by a sharp black line, but that each of us flows imperceptibly into adjacent people and things.

The characterization of all the novelists who preceded these two masters seems, in comparison, incomplete or immature. Even Richardson's seems so, in the most penetrating pages of "Clarissa Harlowe," even Goethe's in that uncannily modern novel, the "Elective Affinities" — because, in the case of these writers, the people so elaborately dissected are hung in the void, unvisualized and unconditioned (or almost) by the special outward circumstances of their lives. They are subtly analyzed abstractions of humanity, to whom only such things happen as might happen to almost any one in any walk of life — the inevitable eternal human happenings.

Since Balzac and Stendhal, fiction has reached out in many new directions, and made all sorts of experiments; but it has never ceased to cultivate the ground they cleared for it, or gone back to the realm of abstractions. It is still, however, an art in the making, fluent and dirigible, and combining a past full enough for the deduction of certain general principles with a future rich in untried possibilities.

Copyright © 1924, 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

In General

To treat of the practice of fiction is to deal with the newest, most fluid and least formulated of the arts. The exploration of origins is always fascinating; but the attempt to relate the modern novel to the tale of Joseph and his Brethren is of purely historic interest.

Modern fiction really began when the "action" of the novel was transferred from the street to the soul; and this step was probably first taken when Madame de La Fayette, in the seventeenth century, wrote a little story called "La Princesse de Clèves," a story of hopeless love and mute renunciation in which the stately tenor of the lives depicted is hardly ruffled by the exultations and agonies succeeding each other below the surface.

The next advance was made when the protagonists of this new inner drama were transformed from conventionalized puppets -- the hero, the heroine, the villain, the heavy father and so on -- into breathing and recognizable human beings. Here again a French novelist -- the Abbé Prévost -- led the way with "Manon Lescaut"; but his drawing of character seems summary and schematic when his people are compared with the first great figure in modern fiction -- the appalling "Neveu de Rameau." It was not till long after Diderot's death that the author of so many brilliant tales peopled with eighteenth century puppets was found, in the creation of that one sordid, cynical and desolately human figure, to have anticipated not only Balzac but Dostoievsky.

But even from "Manon Lescaut" and the "Neveu de Rameau," even from Lesage, Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Scott, modern fiction is differentiated by thegreat dividing geniuses of Balzac and Stendhal. Save for that one amazing accident of Diderot's, Balzac was the first not only to see his people, physically and morally, in their habit as they lived, with all their personal hobbies and infirmities, and make the reader see them, but to draw his dramatic action as much from the relation of his characters to their houses, streets, towns, professions, inherited habits and opinions, as from their fortuitous contacts with each other.

Balzac himself ascribed the priority in this kind of realism to Scott, from whom the younger novelist avowedly derived his chief inspiration. But, as Balzac observed, Scott, so keen and direct in surveying the rest of his field of vision, became conventional and hypocritical when he touched on love and women. In deference to the wave of prudery which overswept England after the vulgar excesses of the Hanoverian court he substituted sentimentality for passion, and reduced his heroines to "Keepsake" insipidities; whereas in the firm surface of Balzac's realism there is hardly a flaw, and his women, the young as well as the old, are living people, as much compact of human contradictions and torn with human passions as his misers, his financiers, his priests or his doctors.

Stendhal, though as indifferent as any eighteenth century writer to atmosphere and "local colour," is intensely modern and realistic in the individualizing of his characters, who were never types (to the extent even of some of Balzac's) but always sharply differentiated and particular human beings. More distinctively still does he represent the new fiction by his insight into the springs of social action. No modern novelist has ever gone nearer than Racine did in his tragedies to the sources of personal, of individual feeling; and some of the French novelists of the eighteenth century are still unsurpassed (save by Racine) in the last refinements of individual soul-analysis. What was new in both Balzac and Stendhal was the fact of their viewing each character first of all as a product of particular material and social conditions, as being thus or thus because of the calling he pursued or the house he lived in (Balzac), or the society he wanted to get into (Stendhal), or the acre of ground he coveted, or the powerful or fashionable personage he aped or envied (both Balzac and Stendhal). These novelists (with the solitary exception of Defoe, when he wrote "Moll Flanders") are the first to seem continuously aware that the bounds of a personality are not reproducible by a sharp black line, but that each of us flows imperceptibly into adjacent people and things.

The characterization of all the novelists who preceded these two masters seems, in comparison, incomplete or immature. Even Richardson's seems so, in the most penetrating pages of "Clarissa Harlowe," even Goethe's in that uncannily modern novel, the "Elective Affinities" -- because, in the case of these writers, the people so elaborately dissected are hung in the void, unvisualized and unconditioned (or almost) by the special outward circumstances of their lives. They are subtly analyzed abstractions of humanity, to whom only such things happen as might happen to almost any one in any walk of life -- the inevitable eternal human happenings.

Since Balzac and Stendhal, fiction has reached out in many new directions, and made all sorts of experiments; but it has never ceased to cultivate the ground they cleared for it, or gone back to the realm of abstractions. It is still, however, an art in the making, fluent and dirigible, and combining a past full enough for the deduction of certain general principles with a future rich in untried possibilities.

Copyright © 1924, 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)