Monday, September 7, 2015

Reads for Writers: Fiction Writing Master Class by William Cane

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I’m taking advantage of the back-to-school sales stocking up on pens, paper, and notebooks. Feeling nostalgic, I’m also recommending Fiction Writing Master Class by William Cane this week. Why not take a “class”—it is September after all.

         On page 1, Cane begins:

          So many people today are banging their brains out against the keyboards asking themselves, “Why can’t I write like the greats?” when the simple answer is that you can…”

          On page 3:

          Allow me, then, to introduce you to one aspect of rhetoric…that can literally salvage your writing career, infuse your style with new vim and vigor, and give you a voice equal to the best and brightest who came before you. It’s all in this book about classical rhetorical technique of imitation…[which stopped being taught in schools 80 years ago].

          To simple to be true? Well, consider for a moment that musicians…learned their craft by doing covers of other artists’ songs.

          On page 5:

          The ultimate goal of this book is not to make you a clone of these other writers but to help you learn their secrets so you can express yourself with confidence, style, and your own unique voice…[which] will emerge in a way it never could have done without this crucial foundation.

          Among the 21 authors Cane suggests imitating are Balzac, Melville, Kafka, Hemingway, Salinger as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Margaret Mitchell, Ray Bradbury, and Tom Wolfe. Excerpts from their books are included to illustrate the authors’ secrets.

Start with the chapters about authors you already enjoy reading and branch out to the ones you always mean to get to someday.

Charles Dickens use of characters in conflict while making his readers laugh and cry is revealed in Chapter 2. “Transmuting your own experiences, you will create art and affect your readers as deeply as you yourself have been affected.” (page 24)

          Edith Wharton’s decisions about when to describe settings and foreshadowing are discussed in Chapter 6. “Integration is perhaps the most sophisticated technical device Wharton employs in a scene. It is a method of describing the background location here and there during the course of the action.” (page 66)

            W. Somerset Maugham’s characters, chapter organization, and narrative flow secrets are shared in Chapter 7. “In addition to putting characters in a position where they must decide what to do, narrative can be made to flow more quickly by piquing curiosity about future events and setting up expectations by ‘advertising’ what is going to happen.” (page 77)

          Why no one writes dialogue like D. H. Lawrence is illustrated in Chapter 10. “Lawrence is unique in his ability to find the right emotional language to describe eyes, looks, and expressions. He also knows what is relevant…the words he chooses are full of connotation…” (page 106) How he created excitement in the simplest of scenes is revealed on pp. 109-112.

          Plots, drafts, symbols, and many other secrets are shared from these and the other authors like Ian Fleming’s attention to detail on page 169; Flannery O’Connor’s use of humor in serious writing on pp. 206-208; and Suspense, Stephen King style on pp.242-247.

           Fiction Writing Master Class by William Cane is illuminating and engaging. Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery; it’s also educational.


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