How Fiction Works by James Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although ostensibly about reading, I think this is a brilliant book for writers. It looks at novelistic techniques and breaks them down using examples from 19th century classics and modern realist fiction. It has a particular interesting section on building characters with some great examples from literature. It also has a detailed explanation of free indirect style – with lots of good examples of writing that makes it work ( and a couple where it doesn’t.) The ending talks about how these once radical realist techniques have now too sometimes turned into shorthand conventions and how it important to study the fiction of life or something? I didn’t quite get all of this bit, but altogether a very useful book. It’s also written in a straightforward way in short sections, so it’s very easy to read too.

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