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Reviews: Books about Writing
Book Reviews:
   Conventional Book Reviews   (standard commentary/review of book) 
  Knothole Book Reviews   (a "knothole review" is "not whole"-- 
       the concept is to give insights into an author's style, craft, and knowledge through selected excerpts.) 
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft 
Janet Burroway
New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992

There are a few lucky souls for whom the whole process of writing is easy . . . Most of us don't like to write at all; we like to have written. 

The earliest storytellers . . . made themselves popular . . . with heroic exploits and a skill of creating suspense: What happened next? And after that? And then what happened? 

Readers still wonder what happened next, and unless you make them wonder, they will not turn the page. You must master plot . . . because . . . you cannot convey . . . to those who do not read you. 

Human character is the foreground of all fiction, however the humanity is disguised. Anthropomorphism may be scientific sin, but it is a literary necessity. Bugs Bunny isn't a rabbit: he's a plucky youth in ears. . . . The romantic heroes of Watership Down are out of the Arthurian tradition, not out of the hutch. 

Appearance reveals, which is one of the things that is meant by showing rather than telling in fiction. But characters also reveal themselves in the way they speak, act, and think . . . 

Like many of the terms that relate to the elements of fiction, atmosphere has more than one meaning, sometimes referring to subject matter, sometimes to technique. Part . . . is setting. Part . . . is tone. 

Point of view is the most complex element of fiction. . . . It is finally a question of relationship among writer, character, and reader. 

The author may ask us to identify completely with one character and totally condemn another. One character may judge another harshly while the author suggests we should qualify that judgment. [In addition to] author, characters, and reader, [there may be] a narrator. . . . The four members of the dialogue may operate differently in various areas of value. The result is an authorial distance or what John Gardner termed psychic distance. 

William C. Knott, in The Craft of Fiction, cogently observes that "anyone can write. . .but, only the writers know how to rewrite." 

—excerpted by William T. Delamar

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