The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction

"The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers" is a nonfiction book by Ayn Rand, published posthumously. Edited by Tore Boeckmann, it was published by Plume in 2000, ISBN 0452281547. The book is based on a 1958 series of 12 four-hour lectures about fiction which Rand gave to a group of student readers and writers in her living room. A companion book is "The Art of Nonfiction".


Chapter 1: Writing and the Subconscious

* Language is a tool you had to learn
* Before you sit down to write, you cannot be conscious about the words you use.
* What is "ominous", what is "cheerful"
* You call on stored knowledge when you write
* That which you know clearly, you will find a word for
* To master the art of writing, you have to be conscious why you are doing things. Do not edit yourself while you write. You cannot change themes in the middle of a sentence. When you write, you have to rely on your subconscious. You cannot doubt yourself and edit every sentence as it comes out. Write as it comes to you. Then, the next day preferably, read over it and be editor.
* The "squirms" (bad writing or "writer's block') comes when your conscious and subconscious are not in sync. The solution: think of the scene and its relevancy to the rest of the book. Do enough thinking (over days) to integrate the elements involved.

Chapter 2: Literature as an art form

* Use words with literal clarity, like a lawyer. A non-objective artist does not know what they are saying. You must be exact & objective. Anyone who wants to communicate with others must rely on an objective reality & objective language.
* The non-objective is that which is only dependent on the individual subject, not any standard of outside reality and is there for incommunicable to others. When a man announces that he is a non-objective artist, he is saying that what he is saying cannot be communicated. Why then does he present it? And why then does he proclaim it is art? An non-objective artist is counting on the existence of objective art & using it in order to destroy it. The subjectivism of the objective artist is based on an inferiority complex which takes the form "If I don't understand it, it must be profound". Why? When communication by means of language is discarded, what is left as the definition of writing? Writing becomes inarticulate sounds printed on paper by means of little black marks. Bad premises if not eliminated will grow & destroy the good ones. Do not let your own talent, your good premises act in support of your bad premises and of the lazy or the irrational in your mind. If to any extent you do not hold the premises of non-objectivity then by your own choice you do not belong in literature or in any human activity or on this earth.
* With the exception of proper names, every word is an abstraction. In order to be completely free with words, you must know countless concretes under your abstractions. This issue [abstractions to concretes] is crucial to all creative writing; not only to the composition of a sentence but the composition of a whole story and of its every chapter and paragraph.
** When you start with a story, you start with an abstraction then find the concretes that add up to that abstraction. For the reader, it is the reverse: they start with the concretes and move to the abstracts. I call this a circle. For instance, the theme of Atlas Shrugged is "The importance of reason" -- a wide abstraction. To leave the reader with that message, I have to show what reason is, how it operates, and why it is important. The sequence on the construction of the John Galt Line is included for that purpose, to concertize the mind's role in human life. The rest of the novel illustrates the consequences of the mind's absence. In particular, the chapter on the tunnel catastrophe shows concretely what happens in a world where men do not dare to think or to take the responsibility of judgment. If at the end of the novel you are left with the impression "yes, the mind is important & we should live by reason", these incidents are the cause. The concretes have summed up in your mind to the abstraction with which I started and which I had to break down into concretes.
* What abstractions do I want to convey and what concretes will convey it,
** Young writers often make the following mistake: if they want a strong, independent, & rational hero, they state in there narrative that he is strong, independent, & rational or they have other characters pay him these compliments in discussion. This does not convey anything: strong, independent, & rational are abstractions. In order to leave your reader with those abstractions, you have to provide the reader with concretes that will make him conclude he did x so he is strong, he is independent because he defied y, rational because he thought z. It is on your power to complete this circle that your success rests.
* The purpose of all art is the objectification of values. The fundamental motive of the writer, the activity--whether he knows it consciously or not, is to objectify his values, his views on what is important in life. A man reads a novel for the same reason: to see a presentation of reality slanted to a certain code of values with which he then may agree or disagree.
** For instance, to say "courage is good" is not to objectify a value. To present a man who acts bravely is.
* Why is it important to objective values?
** human values are abstractions. Before they can be real to or convince anyone, the concretes have to be given. In this sense, every writer is a moral philosopher.

Chapter 3: Theme & Plot

* a novel's theme is the general abstraction in relation to which the events serve as the concretes.
* Theme of Gone with the Wind: The impact of the civil war on the South, the destruction of the Southern way of life that vanished with the wind
*Theme of Sinclair Lewis's Babbott: The characterization of the average American small business man
* A novel's theme is not the same as its philosophical meaning.
* What is important is not the message the writer projects explicitly, but the value and view of life he projects implicitly. Every story has an implicit philosophy... by what he chooses to present, by how he presents it, any author expresses his fundamental metaphysical values--his view on man's relationship to reality and of what man can & should seek in life.
* In judging a novel, all one has to do is to understand the theme and judge how well the author carried it out. Other things being equal, the wider the theme is the better work of art it is.
* "Quo Vadis", by Henryk Sienkiewicz, is one of Ayn Rand's technically one of the best constructed novels ever written, though she does not agree with the glorification of the rise & glorification of Christian culture.
* Warning: be sure that your story can be summed up to some theme (ex. "I'm writing something that happened to me" -- that's not a theme)
** You must show objective reason why there should be interest in the work
* The most important element in a novel is Plot.
** Plot is a purposeful progression of events. Such events must be logically connected, must be a natural outgrowth of the preceding, & all leading up to a final climax.
*** A novel is a story of human beings in action... so there must be events. If you do not represent your subject matter in terms of physical action, what you are writing is not a novel.

Theme vs. plot

* The most important element in a novel is Plot.
** Plot is a purposeful progression of events. Such events must be logically connected, must be a natural outgrowth of the preceding, & all leading up to a final climax.
*** A novel is a story of human beings in action... so there must be events. "If you do not represent your subject matter in terms of physical action, what you are writing is not a novel."
*** We the Living, theme: the individual against the state (the evil of stateism),
**** When you work on a story of your own, make sure you define your theme clearly (it will help you judge what to include)
*** The Fountainhead, theme: Individualism and Collectivism (not in politics but in man's soul)
*** To go to the theme to the plot line, you simply ask "by what means did the author present the theme": a plot-theme - The focus is the focus of the means of presenting the theme. It is the most important element in a story. The plot-theme names an action, the central action to which all of the other events in the story are related.

** Atlas Shrugged, theme: the crucial value of the human mind. The plot-theme: the mind on strike.
** Les Miserables, theme: the injustice done to the lower classes of society. Plot-theme: the struggled of an ex convict to avoid persecution of the police.
** Gone with the Wind, theme: the disappearance of the Southern way of life. Plot-theme: the relationship of the heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, to the two men in her life, Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes. Rhett Butler represents the new south (who pursues Scarlet) and Ashley Wilkes represents the old south.

Romantic vs. Naturalistic Novel

* A Romantic novel has a plot whereas a Naturalistic novel is plotless. Though a good Naturalistic novel still has a series of events that adds up to a story. In such a case, they have a plot-theme.
* If a the writer's basic conviction is that man is a determined creature, that he has no choice, but is the play thing of fate, God, or the like, that writer is a naturalist. It essentially presents man as helpless. Ayn Rand disagrees with this because it is plotless as it presupposes that man cannot choose and are not free to choose a purpose.
* A writer is governed by his deepest convictions rather than some professed belief. He might claim to believe in free will but subconsciously be a determinist.
* The romantic school approaches life under the premise that man has free will, the capacity of choice. The distinguishing mark of this school is that it has good plot structure. If man has the capacity of choice, than he can plan for the purposes of his life to achieve them. His life is not a series of accidents. If accidents do occur, he must overcome them. He is the architect of his own life. If such is your view of man, you will write of events dealing with man's purposes and the steps by which he achieves them. That is what constitutes a plot. A plot is a purposeful string of events not an accident series of occurrences but a progression centered on someone's purposes; usually the hero or heroines.

Aristotle: Efficient vs. Final Causation

* Efficient Causation - an event is determined by an antecedent cause. If you strike a match to a gas tank, the striking of the match is the cause the explosion is the effect
* Final Causation - the end result of a chain of causes determines those causes. A tree is the final cause of the seed of that tree which will grow. From one prospect the seed is the cause of the tree; first there is the seed, and as a result of the tree grows. But from the perspective of Final Causation, Aristotle said that the future tree determines the nature of the seed and of the development it has to follow to end up as that tree. This is one of the major differences in Rand's and Aristotle's philosophy. It is wrong to assume what is in philosophy is known as "teleology", a purpose set in advance in nature determines physical phenomena. The concept of the future tree leading to the development of the seed is impossible. It leads to mysticism and religion. Most religions have a "teleological" view of the world.
* Only a thinking consciousness can choose a purpose ahead of its existence and then select the means to achieve it. In man, everything has to move by Final Causation. If men allow themselves to be moved by Efficient Causation, they act like determined beings being propelled by immediate causes outside of themselves; that is totally improper. Even then, volition is involved. If a man decides to abandon purpose, that is also a choice—a bad one. Proper human behavior is one by Final Causation.
* As a writer, you must choose Final Causation. The reader, on the other hand, follows the process of Efficient Causation.
* In nature, there is no Final Causation, there is only Efficient Causation. In man, there must be Final Causation.
* What you rationally want to read is a story about men's choices, right or wrong, about their decision, and what they should have decided—which means a free fill romantic plot story.


* Some action is needed for a man to follow Final Causation.
* You, as a writer, have to determine an obstacle to overcome to illustrate the purpose your characters are achieving by presenting it in a stressed action form. (Often this is done by putting the character in a clash of two values.) The more struggle, the better the plot. By showing the kind of conflicts that a man has to resolve and make the right decisions about, the author shows which decision is right. Or, in the case of characters who make the wrong decision, why the decision is wrong—to what bad consequences it leads.
* The essence of plot is:
** Struggle
** Conflict (within man or with another man) - conflict in a man's mind is the most powerful because it shows that he chose the solution
** Climax
* Avoid coincidence at all costs. (A flood that kills the villain at the right moment) —A plot is a purposeful progression of events.
* If you want to hold the reader, give him something to wonder about.
* Establish a "worry line" - a set of problems for the audience to worry about. To do that, you have know to feed the suspense, giving the reader information step by step, but also how to establish the kind of conflict that will interest a reader.
** Is there any reason why anyone should be interested in this conflict?
** Are these values important enough to worry about?
* For instance, the meaning of the Dagny/Rearden romance in Atlas Shrugged is that shared ideas, values, and struggle is at the root of there love.
* Train your mind to focus on essentials (good for writing a story & in general for Life - do not want a life that is not structured & planned; must know what is the essentially important thing in anything you deal with)

Chapter 4: The Plot-Theme

* The plot-theme is the central conflict that determines the events of a plot. It is the seed enabling you to develop a plot structure.
* Both the author & the characters have to be purposeful
* If you have a message, that message determines your plot-theme, if you don't have a message you start with the plot-theme.
* The plot must be your sole consideration (the plot purpose) while you are constructing it.
* Conflict
** Anything that a man desires and acts to achieve is a value (at least to him--whether the value is rational is a different question).
** When a man understands conflict, he knows what is dramatic (you must earn inspiration... you must understand it to let your subconscious inspire your drama & story... after a while, after you have written a few plots, your mind begins to work automatically)
* If you are not clear on your plot-theme then your story will fall apart. (search for continual conflict, particularly conflict of values, for a good plot-theme)
* A plot-conflict has to be expressed in action. When you construct a plot, therefore, you must be a materialist & concern yourself only with values & issues that can be expressed in physical action.
* The theme of Anthem is the word "I" & the story is built behind one idea: "what would happen if a man lost the concept 'I' and how would he regain it". This is not a plot-theme because it is internal (not a physical action).
* The classic plot: the prostitute with the heart of gold
* Another classic plot: The woman who sells herself to a man she does not love for the sake of the man she does love
* How can I make the conflict worse for everyone involved? The more conflicts involved in the same action situation & the more serious the values for the participants, the better the dramatic situation & the tighter the plot you can construct from it. Once an author starts to develop a plot-theme, he has to make the events proceed from that plot-theme.
* Drama vs. Melodrama
** a Drama is a conflict of values within a man as expressed in action
** a Melodrama only involves conflicts of a man with other men.
* A short story should deal with one conflict & see it resolved without too many complications
* A plot-theme is a conflict in terms of action complex enough to create a purposeful progression of events. The plot-theme serves as the seed from which the tree has to grow. To test whether you have sufficient seed for a good tree, ask yourself "is this the worse situation in which I can put my hero"... "if these are his values, is this the worse class I can engineer for him". If you have chosen the worse clash & his values are important, then you have the seed for a good plot structure.

Chapter 5: The Climax

* The part or event of the story where all of the conflict of the characters are resolved.
* The climax is that stage where the worse consequences of the plot-theme conflict come into the open and the characters have to make their final choice. You can judge a climax by asking "has it resolved the central conflict". If you know the plot-theme of your story, you will know what is the proper climax and whether or not you are letting your story down. A climax does not have to resolve in one day or one scene... but the events have to be part of one sequence.
* Anti-climax: a development after the climax that does not follow from it.
* Never resolve a smaller issue after the climax.
* Never leave issues unresolved: (Chekhov) "Never leave a gun hanging in the first act if you don't intend it to go off in the third"
* Always set up/outline the climax FIRST before you devise the plot - a good dramatist starts with the third act (you need to always have a plan as to where your story is going)
* Ayn Rand does outlines in "headline style" - Ch. 1 "who is John Gault - Eddie Willard Taggard Transcontinental, James Taggard, trouble on the Colorado Line. Taggards Evasions"

Chapter 6: How to Develop a Plot Ability

* Consciousness vs. sub-consciousness - skill vs. intuition - the process of writing cannot be taught, not because it is mystical but rather because the process is so complex that a teacher cannot supervise the process for you. You must practice to learn
* Rules for developing your plot ability:
** concretize your abstractions. In your daily life, you experience broad abstractions - name the abstractions. For instance, the word independence, one might say "a man who thinks for himself". If you catch yourself using floating (unclear) or semi-floating abstractions, learn to concretize them. Project in ultimate action what any abstraction means. For instance to say "Love, everyone knows what love is" is useless. A philosophical definition is "Love is a human emotion of appreciation for a value"... it is not concrete however. How do you know love in other people? If a man & a woman are in love, how do they act, what do they say, what do they seek, why do they seek it? Start by concretizing those abstractions that interest you most. Do it when your mind is unemployed. Most people think they understand the concretes of the human experience, love, hate, joy, etc., but they are incapable of putting them to concretes of reality. Not to carry floating abstractions in your mind is the first requisite for developing a plot because action is concrete & physical. Abstractions do not act, once you can relate every abstraction to its concretes, you will know how to translate general themes into action. Any theme that you want to write a story about starts in your mind, once you name it, as an abstraction. To translate that action into a plot, you need a vast number of concretes at your instinctive call so that your subconscious can pick the relevant ones.
** Fill your mind with as many concretes as possible under every abstraction you deal with and forget about them (let your subconscious work on it). Tie your observations to abstractions. For instance, you observe that someone is aggressive but ultimately unsure of themselves... the abstraction is that they are overcompensating for that which they truly don't have.
** Only when you can dance back & forth, with that kind of ease, between abstractions & concretes will you be able to give the philosophical meaning to an action-idea or the action-story to a philosophical idea. The physical action has to mirror the spiritual action involved. Proper plot action is neither spirit alone nor body alone, but the integration of the two. To construct a proper plot, you have to be--at least as a dramatist--on the premise of mind-body integration.
** Think in terms of conflict
** The best stories are those that can be told in one sentence. If the essential situation, not the whole story of course, can be told in one sentence, this makes for a good plot story.
** Tap your emotions - start with your abstractions, then let your own values & ideas be the selector. Ask what you personally would like to see happen.

Chapter 7: Characterization

* Characterization is the presentation of the nature of people in a story. Characterization is really a portrayal of motives.
* The main means of characterization are action & dialog.
* There is no way of knowing the consciousness of another, the soul, except by means of physical manifestations.
* The actions must be linked to their words. To project a convincing character, you need to have a basic premises or motives which move his actions and by means of these actions, the reader will discover what is at the root of the character. You must integrate a character. A character can have enormous conflicts and contradictions. But then these have to be consistent. The reader must be able to grasp: "this is what's wrong with this character". To say "I understand him" is to say "I understand the conflict of his actions".
* You can project your character only by means of what you say on paper but behind every word & action there is much more than words. No action takes place in a vacuum. What makes him tick? What premise does this action come from? What is the motive of a man who does x or character who does z why does he say it?
* Good Characterization is not a matter of giving a character one character trait, it is a matter of integrating his every particular aspect to the total; the focus of his integration being his total premises.
* Propaganda: Use abstract discussions lead to concretes... this is the only way to state abstract principles in fiction; if the concrete illustrations are given in the problems & actions in the story, you can afford to have the character state a wide principle. If however, the action does not support it, a wide principle will stick out like a propaganda poster. How much philosophy propaganda can be put into a fiction work depends on how much of an event the philosophy is covering.
** How deep are the events you have chosen to concretize the [character's] speech?
* Peal off the onion regarding each bit of characterization to ensure consistency in your character
** the Naturalist writer will look at one layer of characterization... just the immediate reasons for a character's actions
* ex. if a man is unscrupulous about money... because he is greedy
** the Romantic writer will look as deep as the author can go... shows the deepest meaning of the abstracts
* ex. if a man is unscrupulous about money... because a man is greedy... why is a man greedy... what is the nature of greed.
* In The Fountainhead, Rourke is motivated by a love of architecture... what is the meaning of the love for a creative profession... what does such love rest on... it rests on an independent mind... what is the moral meaning of an independent mind... the independent vs. the second hand mind
* If you are a perceptive, but superficial observer, and you look at people in real life, you can look at one or two layers of motivation behind their actions. Superficial in this context means non-abstract (& non-psychological).
** If one judges man a determined being (determinism), the one does not go deeply into what makes him move (the Naturalist has this philosophy & thus does not explore human psychology very deeply)
** A Naturalist never truly answers the question Why
* Ayn Rand does not like the term Archetype because an Archetype is not an individual... she likes characters that specify this particular human being... yet she likes the abstraction concept that an Archetype reveals
* The Fountainhead is abstracted to be about any innovator in any profession... because she covers all of the basic issues: the independent vs. second-hand mind
** A naturalist will paint the average picture of a given Archetype and then destroy the archetype by adding needless details
** A naturalist writer may seem interesting in the same way a newspaper article is interesting
* Two approaches to characters:
** Just like the neighbor next door - Naturalist
** Presentations based on essentials
* Like everything else in writing, a characterization cannot be created by conscious calculation... you cannot create a character by abstractions alone, you must know how to use the subconscious & how to prepare it [the subconscious] so it will make the right selections
** Your characterizations will never be better than your powers of observation... the mind does not first recognize floating abstractions & then discover the concretes... in order to properly grasp an abstraction, you must derive it from concretes... you must be a good observer of people, approve or disapprove, are encourage or uneasy. You estimate emotionally everyone you meet... learn to understand what in a person causes you to feel a certain way. For instance, if you strongly dislike someone, identify what is it about the person you dislike & by what means you observed it.
* When writing dialog, you must write from two premises:
** as the character(s)
** as the abstraction (you cannot do this consciously)

Chapter 8: Style 1, Depictions of Love

* Two parts to Style, selection of
** content - those aspects of an assignment that a writer chooses to communicate
** words - the way you say something
* No one ever need be imitative of another person's style. You will achieve your own style if you do not consciously aim for it.
* In style, form follows function; what determines your style is your purpose both in the book as a whole and in each sentence.
** You can write whatever form you want as long as your content supports it.
** Never substitute words for meaning.
* Never say something is indescribable. If something is indescribable, then don't describe it. When an author says "indescribable", he is confessing inadequacy.
* Write as it comes to you with whatever premises you have; never copy anyone else's style
* Deal in concretes and essences.
* In regards to essences, a writer has to know when to stop.
* Fiction is an atheistic universe. You are the god who created it.
* When you edit, consider every work; is/was it necessary... why do I want to keep it? If you cannot keep it, why not? The answers will help you refine the premise from which you work.
* Always watch for floating abstractions (that is, an abstraction without a concrete)... this stylistic decision/error leads to non-purposeful writing.
** Floating abstractions can be expressive and emotional, but what they are expressing and what and why the emotion is not clear.
** Using too many adjectives is the easiest and laziest way of describing something.
* One of the beauties of a good literary style is that it combines clear denotation with the skillful use of connotation, but one can only connote something that is a something. One cannot have connotations which are relationships without specifying any of the entities bearing these relationships.
* Never use the word "magic" in a positive sense; it is a lazy writer's word. To say that something is magical is too easy just as mysticism is too easy a way out of philosophical problems. Mysticism is not at all easy psychologically but it is philosophically. Similarly, the word magic is not easy if you use it for proper literary effect.
* Don't play with words for effect; play with content.
* Never use words like blood, anguish, and despair together; one essentially means the same as the other and if you mean to convey despair, then anguish is too weak a word; if you mean blood then both despair and anguish are anticlimactic.
* Thomas Wolfe's style is so vague that anyone can interpret it how he wishes... communicates an empty mold to be filled by the reader. "I [Ayn Rand] do not collaborate with the reader on the meaning of my work."
* A naturalist writes as things are, not as they ought to be. The method of selection is not a value judgment but a statistical one.
* The alleged opposition between theory and practice (the theory/practice opposition) is always presented:
** 1. a foolish and illogical theory is set up
** 2. the author triumphantly shows that the "theory" does not work in "practice"
* A repetitious, bromidic style is an insult to the reader.
* The author's philosophy is always present in what he chooses to say and how he chooses to say it. A writer of fiction cannot hide himself. He stands naked spiritually. A writer's style comes from his accepted philosophy, accepted in his subconscious; just as your general behavior as a human being your premises will out. They will come out in many subtle ways and any conflict you have will show, particularly in emergencies. So, in your writing your premises will out. If your conscious philosophy has sunk into your subconscious and become automatic, that will show in your style. If your conscious philosophy is not fully assimilated, if you have premises contradictory to it in your subconscious, that will show. If you have good or bad premises, that will show. If you are not happy with what comes out of your subconscious, you can correct it with conscious thinking. But do not censor yourself in the process of writing; that cannot be done successfully. To be the kind of writer you want to be, you must first be the kind of thinker you want to be. Just as man is a being of self-made soul, so a writer is a being of self-made style. Both are made by the same process; by a man being so fully convinced of a premises to the point where they become subconscious and automatic.

Chapter 9: Style 2, Descriptions of Nature and of New York

* Cast the sentence into an active form
* The essence of the naturalist style is cataloging. To the naturalist, simply feel, remember, & know to use words to write
** Your ability to feel is a function of your ability to think and thinking is volitional, learning. Memory is a function of valuing. Vocabulary is a matter of being convinced of the importance of word.
* A good style is that which conveys the most with the greatest economy of words. In a text book, the idea is to present one thought or idea as clearly as possible. A great literary style is one that presents 5 or more thoughts in one clear sentence.

Chapter 10: Particular issues of Style, Narrative vs. Dramatization

* Narrative:
** from the standpoint of form - that which is not dialogue
** from the standpoint of structure - that which is not dramatized
* To dramatize something is to show it as if it were happening before the reader's eyes so he is in the position of the observer at the scene.
* To narrate is to summarize; tell the reader what has happened but do not let him be a witness.
** You cannot write a novel without summarization. If you were to have a work with no narrative, it would be a play.
* Predominantly, the dramatized scenes of a novel are those where dialogue is reproduced. Conversely, dialogue normally occurs in dramatized scenes only.
* When is it proper to dramatize vs. narrate an event:
** Always dramatize important events.
** The less important scenes like narratives should be narrated.
* Never declare in narrative the opposite that you illustrate in action or dialogue. Do not assert anything that you cannot prove


* Exposition is anything that the reader requires in order to understand a scene.
** The one rule about exposition is "do not let it show". Exposition is like the seams of a garment; use exposition as a natural part of the scene.
* Do not have two characters discuss something they do not know (e.g. two lawyers say "as you know, this is an important case"). Instead, have the character(s) explain the situation to an unknowing third party (e.g. his secretary composing a letter).
* Whenever one character communicates something in dialogue to another, there must be a reason why the second character has to be told the information, a reason related to the action of a scene.
** If you have a complex exposition, you will feel like you have to give the reader everything at once. The story will be better if you make one point clear and then a few sentences later, another. Feed one bit of information at a time, interspersed with the action. There are no "rules". You have to gauge this by the general structure of your story. The ingenuity you can apply with regard to exposition is unlimited.
** Be careful to be objective. Do not rely on any knowledge that the reader does not yet have.


* A flashback is a scene taken from the past, a dramatized exposition.
* The only standard for when to use a flashback is the importance of the information. The more important the information, the greater need for flashback.
* While in the flashback, the reader anticipates the reemergence of the present.
* The only reason to use a flashback is so not to confuse the reader. Mark clearly when you go from the present to the past and back again.


* When you write a scene, you must preserve the setting.
* When you do not want to interrupt the reader with a technical reminder (such as a character walking across the room to perform an action irrelevant to the story), think outside the box. Often you can use description along with action to capture the mood. You can use this technique to distract the reader from mundane descriptions.
* Don't let your seams show; instead of writing "It was six months later," establish that it is sunny and hot and then write "It was snowing" to show the passage of time.


* The operative concept is abstraction... the mixture of concretes and abstractions
* Consider not only the exact meaning but also the connotations in the minds of the reader.
* It is through metaphor that the reader can draw their own conclusions. To be objective, you must show, not tell.
* Do not use too much metaphor in a short period of time. It confuses the reader. He gets lost in the concretes.
* Avoid using two metaphors to describe the same thing; it loses its power. You have to be decisive and select only one metaphor


* Always describe the heroes in details during their first appearance in the story. Determine how much content by the nature of the build-up the reader has to the character.
* Do not pause too long on lesser types unless the reader has a reason to be interested


* Style plays a large role in dialogue
* Reproduce the dialogue that is congruent with your subject matter and your own style


* Do not use slang in straight narrative
* When no literary English word exists to describe something and an appropriate word has been in circulation for some time, it is appropriate to use slang. The slang that changes over time is used for a purpose other than communicating meaning; it is always a local affectation.
* Do not use obscenities
** Obscenities are language that implies a value judgment of condemnation or contempt, usually in regards to certain parts of the body. They are obscene by intention not by what is referred to. Obscenities are used by the anti-body school of thought. Observe the more religious a nation is, the more varied and violently obscene its four letter word repertoire is.
** Obscene language is not an objective language to express your own value judgments. It is a language of prefabricated value judgments consisting of the denunciation of the value of sex and this earth and conveying that they are low and Damnable. You don't want to subscribe to this premise.
** If you ever need to describe something ghastly, ask yourself what its purpose is. If it is to produce horror, one or two lines will do.

Foreign Words

* Do not use foreign words by themselves to show your erudition; you will sound arrogant.

Journalistic References

* Do not use names of living authors, political figures, song hits, or any proper names which contain relevance to a specific time period within the last 100 years; anything that has existed for longer has become an abstraction. Nothing is as old as yesterday's newspaper.
* You must be guided by your theme and how abstract a level you are writing on

Chapter 11: Special forms of Literature

* Humor
** Humor is a metaphysical negation. We regard as funny that which contradicts reality, the incongruous, & the grotesque.
** What you find funny depends on that which you want to negate. If you laugh at any value that shows feet of clay, such as the gentleman who slips on a banana peal, you are laughing at the validity of values.
** In Atlas Shrugged, the difference between Francisco D'Anconia & James Taggard's laughing: "Francisco laughed because he saw something much greater... Jim laughed as if he wanted nothing to remain great"
** We must we willing to laugh at everything is the worse symptom of our non-value age. When that phrase is repeated throughout a society, it is the sign of a collapse of all values.
** To say that one does not take something seriously means "never mind, it's not important... it doesn't matter one way or the other". You can only say that about the things you do not value. If you take nothing seriously, it means that you have no values. If you have no values, the first value, the basis of all others-namely, your life, has no value for you.
** Swift (of Gulliver's Travels fame) is an author of dubious fame. He does not project what the author is for. He satirizes all sorts of social weaknesses but upholds nothing.
** Humor as the exclusive ingredient in a story is a dubious form of writing. It is a simply destruction for the aim of nothing. In some, humor is a destructive element. If the humor of a work is aim at evil or the inconsequential and if the positive is included, than the humor is benevolent & the work completely proper. If the work is aimed at the positive or values, the work might be skillfully literary, but it is to be denounced philosophically. This is true also of satire for the sake of satire, if the things satire are bad and deserve to be destroyed. A work that includes no positive but only the negatives is also improper philosophically.
* Fantasy
** Strictly speaking, some works are not fantasy but merely the projection of something in time (often a justification is the ultimate consequences of some existing trend or some other application to reality).
** The only run is that it should not be purposeless-which is the rule of any work.
** The Play "Outward Bound" - characters on a ship who discover that they are all dead & are now going to the last judgment.
** The Movie "Here comes Mr. Jordon" (1941) - a physiological story about a deceased prize fighter whose soul comes back to earth. He is not suppose to be dead, there is some mistake in heavenly book-keeping, so he is sent back in the body of a millionaire who has just died. But assuming that millionaires existence, he assumes a new way of life.
** What fantasies are not justified? Those with no intellectual or moral application to human life. (ex. man-sized ants that invade the earth... but if the ants symbolized some special evil than that's different). War of the Worlds is an example of a pointless fantasy.
** "I know of no ghost or horror stories I would classify as valid" (they are fantasy for fantasy's sake)
** "One could make the point that all religion is a fantasy. Religion is not fantasy for fantasy sake. It is a much more vicious motive: the destruction of human life and the human mind. Religion uses fantastic means to ascribe a code of morality. Therefore, it claims a relationship to human life. This raises the issue should man be raised by mystical dogma. But speaking in literary, not philosophical terms, religious stories are distortions of reality for a purpose applicable to human life."
* Symbolism
** symbolism is the concretization of an idea in an object or person representing that idea
** the one absolute in symbolism is that the symbol should be legible. Otherwise, the form is a contradiction in terms. This applies to works that use symbolism but are not symbolic as a whole
** Don't ruin a serious work however with too much symbolism
* Tragedy and the use of Negatives
** The justification for negatives at the end of a work are to show, as in We the Living, that the human spirit can survive even the worse of circumstances. "Suffering as such is not a value only man's fight against it is." - John Gault
** In general, the creation of only the negative is a flaw not only literarily but psychologically.
** Doffdiesfski (sp?) - a master of writing on the negative but his works are incomplete in that they do not show his true view in life... his values do not come through. We know what he is against and not what he is for. He failed to project his Christian ideal.
** An artist, whether he identifies it or not, is busy projecting his values.
* "I read a novel for one purpose only-and to me no amount of literary skill is of equal importance-for the purpose of seeing the kind of people I would want to see in real life and living through the kind of experience I would want to live through." For any other purpose, non-fiction is better. But in the one realm where non-fiction cannot do as well, the realm of values and their concretization in human reality, nothing can take the place of art. Specifically, of fiction.
* Victor Hugo is the writer nearest to creating the kind of people and events I would like to observe or live with.

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