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Making Story Structure Your Own

I’ve recently been working on reviews of two Big Books:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (530 pages)
  • To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (704 pages)

Big Books contain so much that finding a way into discussing them is often a challenge. For both of these novels I’ve discovered that narrative structure provides a good place to begin. Seeing both the similarities and differences in the ways Doerr and Yanagihara use narrative structure has allowed me to appreciate how the structure contributes to the meaning of each novel.

In this blog post novelist and writing guide K.M. Weiland encourages writers to develop their own notion of story structure. Although Weiland directs her posts toward writers, I, as a reader, often find them helpful as well because they suggest ways of focusing on aspects of writing craft that help me better understand how fiction works.

Categories: Big Books, How Fiction Works, Story

The Taste for Argument

“Good criticism should establish what is at stake in a book, that there is, in fact, something worth arguing about.”

Daniel Drake interviews Laura Marsh, literary editor of The New Republic, for The New York Review

Marsh states, “good criticism should establish what is at stake in a book, that there is, in fact, something worth arguing about.” In answer to the question “What should the critic do?” she says:

I think the best to way to answer this is to think about why anyone looks up reviews or wants to read criticism in the first place. For me, it’s always been the feeling, after finishing a book or a film, of needing to know more and to talk to people about it—to understand why you like something, or why it bothered you.

Category: Literary Criticism

How to Finally Stop Obsessing About That Thing That Keeps You up at Night

In this excerpt from the recent book Mindwandering: How Your Constant Mental Drift Can Improve Your Mood and Boost Your Creativity, cognitive neuroscientist Moshe Bar explains how “Admitting thoughts helps us label thoughts, thereby facilitating their detachment and propagation away from the front stage of our thinking.”

AI Influence on Audiobooks Grows—As Does Controversy

I included a link to a related article last week. Because this topic keeps coming back around, here’s another article.

Category: Audiobooks

Write It in Garamond

“Creative output of any kind depends upon a steady stream of tiny self-delusions. A different font helps me believe in my own words.”

This piece by writer and designer R.E. Hawley so delighted me that I immediately opened a new document in Pages on my Mac to take a look at the Garamond font. Alas, Garamond is not included in my choices, and I have too much work to do to go down the rabbit hole of trying to find and install it.

How Elizabeth Taylor Remade the Novel of Old Age

Charlie Tyson, doctoral candidate in English literature at Harvard, writes that the novel developed in eighteenth-century Europe, a time when growth of the middle classes meant that “social position was no longer prescribed at birth.” Readers and authors of novels “found themselves repeatedly drawn to a certain kind of narrative: the coming-of-age story.”

For this reason, “old age rarely gets adequate representation in the novel . . . The literature that does study it tends to be grim and pessimistic, with humiliation as a central theme.” But English novelist Elizabeth Taylor changed things with her 1971 novel Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont: “Although the book’s view of aging is essentially tragic, the gloom is leavened by a gentle humor about the fictions we create to cope with life’s disappointments.”

Categories: Literary History, Older Adults in Literature, Life Stories in Literature

Fail or Fave: Screen Adaptations of Books

Anyone who hangs out with a book-loving crowd knows that, sooner or later, one question will come up: “Which is better, the book or the film/TV series?”

What works on the page doesn’t always work on the screen, as we all know. And producers will often tinker with the original story to make it more appealing to a target audience: an otherwise non-romantic character gets a romantic role, a lengthy car chase is inserted, a bunch of events get conflated into one to keep the story arc tight, vital backstories are cut or glossed over for time, and on and on. The question is this: Will these alterations ruin your enjoyment?

We all have our opinions, but this article is the first time I’ve ever seen a collation of actual data on the topic. “A recent survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll on behalf of ThriftBooks looked at people’s thoughts on movie adaptations, among other things.” Check out the statistics. Do they surprise you?

Categories: Film, Television

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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