Writing process There is a range of approaches that writers take to the task of writing. Each writer needs to find his or her own process and most describe it as more or less a struggle. In very early times, writers used vellum and clay which were more robust materials.
Plot The novel is propelled through its hundred or thousand pages by a device known as the story or plot. This is frequently conceived by the novelist in very simple terms, a mere nucleus, a jotting on an old envelope: The dramatist may take his plot ready-made from fiction or biography—a form of theft sanctioned by Shakespeare—but the novelist has to produce what look like novelties.
At the lowest level of fiction, plot need be no more than a string of stock devices for arousing stock responses of concern and excitement in the reader.
In the least sophisticated fiction, the knots to be untied are stringently physical, and the denouement often comes in a sort of triumphant violence.
Serious fiction prefers its plots to be based on psychological situations, and its climaxes come in new states of awareness—chiefly self-knowledge—on the parts of the major characters. Melodramatic plots, plots dependent on coincidence or improbability, are sometimes found in even the most elevated fiction; E.
But the novelist is always faced with the problem of whether it is more important to represent the formlessness of real life in which there are no beginnings and no ends and very few simple motives for action or to construct an artifact as well balanced and economical as a table or chair; since he is an artist, the claims of art, or artificefrequently prevail.
There are, however, ways of constructing novels in which plot may play a desultory part or no part at all.
In the works of Virginia Woolfthe consciousness of the characters, bounded by some poetic or symbolic device, sometimes provides all the fictional material. Strictly, any scheme will do to hold a novel together—raw action, the hidden syllogism of the mystery storyprolonged solipsist contemplation—so long as the actualities or potentialities of human life are credibly expressed, with a consequent sense of illumination, or some lesser mode of artistic satisfaction, on the part of the reader.
Character The inferior novelist tends to be preoccupied with plot; to the superior novelist the convolutions of the human personality, under the stress of artfully selected experience, are the chief fascination. Without character it was once accepted that there could be no fiction.
In the period since World War IIthe creators of what has come to be called the French nouveau roman i. This may be seen as a transitory protest against the long predominance of character in the novel, but, even on the popular level, there have been indications that readers can be held by things as much as by characters.
The popularity of much undistinguished but popular fiction has nothing to do with its wooden characters; it is machines, procedures, organizations that draw the reader. It is the task of literary critics to create a value hierarchy of fictional character, placing the complexity of the Shakespearean view of man—as found in the novels of Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad—above creations that may be no more than simple personifications of some single characteristic, like some of those by Dickens.
Micawber and devious Uriah Heep—to that wider view of personality, in which character seems to engulf the reader, subscribed to by the great novelists of France and Russia.
The whole nature of human identity remains in doubt, and writers who voice that doubt—like the French exponents of the nouveau roman Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarrauteas well as many others—are in effect rejecting a purely romantic view of character.
For the unsophisticated reader of fiction, any created personage with a firm position in time—space and the most superficial parcel of behavioral or even sartorial attributes will be taken for a character.
Though the critics may regard it as heretical, this tendency to accept a character is in conformity with the usages of real life. The average person has at least a suspicion of his own complexity and inconsistency of makeup, but he sees the rest of the world as composed of much simpler entities.
Characters that seem, on recollection, to have a life outside the bounds of the books that contain them are usually the ones that earn their creators the most regard. Depth of psychological penetration, the ability to make a character real as oneself, seems to be no primary criterion of fictional talent.
Scene, or setting The makeup and behaviour of fictional characters depend on their environment quite as much as on the personal dynamic with which their author endows them: The entire action of a novel is frequently determined by the locale in which it is set. Setting may be the prime consideration of some readers, who can be drawn to Conrad because he depicts life at sea or in the East Indies; they may be less interested in the complexity of human relationships that he presents.
The regional novel is a recognized species. The sequence of four novels that Hugh Walpole began with Rogue Herries was the result of his desire to do homage to the part of Cumberland, in England, where he had elected to live.
The great Yoknapatawpha cycle of William Faulknera classic of 20th-century American literature set in an imaginary county in Mississippi, belongs to the category as much as the once-popular confections about Sussex that were written about the same time by the English novelist Sheila Kaye-Smith.
Many novelists, however, gain a creative impetus from avoiding the same setting in book after book and deliberately seeking new locales. The English novelist Graham Greene apparently needed to visit a fresh scene in order to write a fresh novel. His ability to encapsulate the essence of an exotic setting in a single book is exemplified in The Heart of the Matter ; his contemporary Evelyn Waugh stated that the West Africa of that book replaced the true remembered West Africa of his own experience.
Such power is not uncommon: James Joyce, who remained inexhaustibly stimulated by Dublin, has exalted that city in a manner that even the guidebooks recognize.
The setting of a novel is not always drawn from a real-life locale. The literary artist sometimes prides himself on his ability to create the totality of his fiction—the setting as well as the characters and their actions.
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