In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.
This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.
The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.
Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.
I originally borrowed this book from the library and ended up purchasing it because it had some really solid information. Oakley Hall uses examples, good and bad, to illustrate his point. The first third of the book I found outstandingly useful, particularly the section on scene setting and choosing descriptive details. I also found the center section about symbolism and indirection to be an area where my writing is weak, and it gave me some good ideas. The section on characterization didn’t come across as quite as strong for me. I’m not sure why I found it lacking, I just know that I struggled to get through it and ended up skimming portions. I completely glossed over the short story section as well since I don’t have much interest in that topic. However, the parts I found useful more than justified the price I paid for the book.
As the director of writing programs at U.C. Irvine for 22 years as well as the author of 21 novels, Oakley Hall knows a thing or two about writing fiction. I love that he uses examples of both good writing that illustrates his point using those that seem to break the rules, explaining why in his opinion, it doesn’t work.
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.
Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
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