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The Stuff of Fiction: Advice on Craft

Bauer, Douglas

53 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0472067338 / ISBN 13: 9780472067336
Published by Univ of Michigan Pr, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., 2000
Condition: Very Good Soft cover
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About this Item

First softcover printing. Signed and inscribed on title page. Chapters on Openings, Dialogue, Characters, High Events, Sentiment v Sentimentality. Author has written three novels and has taught at Bennington College. Very good plus with shelfwear, slight cover curl. 135 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 13143

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Stuff of Fiction: Advice on Craft

Publisher: Univ of Michigan Pr, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Soft Cover

Book Condition:Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: 1st Edition.

About this title


The Stuff of Fiction is a collection of lively essays by esteemed novelist Douglas Bauer on the tools of the fiction writer's craft. Based on his popular lectures as a core faculty member in the Bennington Writing Seminars, individual chapters examine the components of successful stories, from creating the first sentence to crafting a fitting ending.
Bauer's primary focus is on three critical elements of fiction writing: dialogue, character, and dramatic event. He sees dialogue as an overheard conversation that has an inherent intimacy and power that should not be squandered by the writer. He discusses the challenge of creating characters that are psychologically complex, both flawed and sympathetic. He cautions new writers against overloading their stories with highly dramatic events--or avoiding them altogether.
The book draws upon work by a range of contemporary fiction writers, including Alice Munro, John Cheever, William Kennedy, Alice McDermott, and Denis Johnson. The Stuff of Fiction recognizes that, finally, the most crucial element for a fiction writer is that which cannot be taught: talent. But it also recognizes that without developing a regular habit of work, a doggedness of effort, no amount of talent can come forward and be recognized.
 Douglas Bauer is author of the novels The Book of Famous Iowans, The Very Air, and Dexterity. His essays have appeared in Writers' Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Playboy, and New York Times Book Review.
Additional information is available on the author's Web site:


To read Douglas Bauer's lovely ruminations on the art of literary fiction is to be transported back to those intimate seminars one never quite appreciated enough in school. How refreshing it is to read a book about fiction writing that speaks of nothing so crass as hooking readers or marketing oneself or conforming to genre specifications. Instead, Bauer contemplates one element of fiction per chapter, opening with openings and ending with endings. What he finds, whether developing dialogue or character or sentiment, is that it is crucial to say neither too much nor too little. A writer must have the balance of an acrobat, and be able to navigate the gray zones. An opening should "beckon" readers. Dialogue works best when one eliminates many of the words. "Villainous, ignoble, antiheroic characters" should be presented sympathetically; "admirable, noble, heroic characters" should be flawed. "Any ending that succeeds both culminates and at the same time continues the story," he says. While "schlock is primarily interested in the breathless depiction of the drama," Bauer (and literary fiction) is interested in "the richness of the resonance." And though he has written a primer on the craft, bad news: "No amount of tweaking and altering ... can rescue a piece of elementally flawed writing." The book contains excerpts from the works of William Kennedy, Denis Johnson, Alice McDermott, E.B. White, Toni Morrison, and others. --Jane Steinberg

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