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Fiction

  • ... fiction is not only the historian of life but its apologist.

  • 'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "Modern Fiction," The Common Reader, 1st series ()
  • ... novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.

  • Fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science maybe; fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.

  • Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction — so we are told.

  • Let it be fact, one feels, or let it be fiction; the imagination will not serve under two masters simultaneously.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • "Poetry, Fiction, and the Future," in David Hume, ed., Selected Essays ()
  • Critics have been amusing themselves for a long time by auscultating fiction for signs of heart failure.

  • Fiction keeps its audience by retaining the world as its subject matter. People like the world. Many people actually prefer it to art and spend their days by choice in the thick of it.

  • Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures ...

  • It is not the office of a novelist to show us how to behave ourselves; it is not the business of fiction to teach us anything.

  • ... for my own purpose, I defined the art of fiction as experience illuminated.

  • Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.

  • ... without fiction, either life would be insufficient or the winds from the north would blow too cold.

  • A friend of mine who writes history books said to me that he thought that the two creatures most to be pitied were the spider and the novelist — their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts. But in some ways I think writers of fiction are the creatures most to be envied, because who else besides the spider is allowed to take that fragile thread and weave it into a pattern? What a gift of grace to be able to take the chaos from within and from it to create some semblance of order.

  • Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility.

  • The work reveals the creator — and as our universe in its vastness, its orderliness, its exquisite detail, tells us something of the One who made it, so a work of fiction, for better or worse, will reveal the writer.

  • Fortunately, there is more to life than death. There is for one thing, fiction. A thousand thousand characters to be sent marching out into the world to divert time from its forward gallop to the terrible horizon.

  • Fiction, on the whole, and if it is any good, tends to be a subversive element in society.

  • Fiction stretches our sensibilities and our understanding, as mere information never can.

  • Fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer's courage.

  • ... fiction happens in the belly, it doesn't happen in the brain.

    • Isabel Allende,
    • in Patt Morrison, "A Life of Letters," Los Angeles Times ()
  • Fiction is a piece of truth that turns lies to meaning.

  • ... for her the whole business of fiction was an arduous putting into words of ideas, pictures, thoughts that continually fought with her to keep their anonymity, their right to a shadowy and secret existence. She never put a thought on paper without feeling as though she were dragging some shrinking little crustacean out of its small shell with a pin.

  • Truth is not always injured by fiction.

  • The best fiction is not merely a narrative of words and ideas, it is an experience so alive that readers forget they are reading. They join the life of the story and are moved and persuaded and changed as though it is their own life.

  • Fiction to me is a kind of parable. You have got to make up your mind it's not true. Some kind of truth emerges from it, but it's not fact.

  • Write a nonfiction book, and be prepared for the legion of readers who are going to doubt your fact. But write a novel, and get ready for the world to assume every word is true.

  • ... in this genre, perfection may require the greatest genius, but mediocrity is well within everyone's grasp.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Essay on Fictions" (1795), in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • [Moralistic] novels are at the same disadvantage as teachers: children never believe them, because they make everything that happens relate to the lesson at hand.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Essay on Fictions" (1795), in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • Fiction structures an experience for the reader to live through. ... That is why people read: to have experiences.

  • The desire to confess ... lies at the root of most fiction writing ...

  • The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it.

  • The two worst sins of bad taste in fiction are pornography and sentimentality. One is too much sex and the other too much sentiment.

  • There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift. It is the nature of fiction not to be good for much unless it is good in itself.

    • Flannery O'Connor,
    • "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, ed., Mystery and Manners ()
  • Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't write fiction. It isn't grand enough for you.

    • Flannery O'Connor,
    • "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, ed., Mystery and Manners ()
  • Fiction is the great repository of the moral sense. The wicked get punished.

  • To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to force him to lay it down with a higher ideal of life than he had when he took it up.

    • Gene Stratton-Porter,
    • in Jeannette Porter Meehan, The Lady of the Limberlost: Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter ()
  • Fiction supplies the only philosophy that many readers know; it establishes their ethical, social, and material standards; it confirms them in their prejudices or opens their minds to a wider world.

  • ... it's a feature of our times that if you write a work of fiction, everyone assumes that the people and events in it are disguised biography — but if you write your biography, it's assumed you're lying your head off.

  • ... fiction and lies are both works of creative art, and creation always reveals the creator.

  • ... fiction is what an author makes out of looking at life ...

  • There's no division on my bookshelf between fiction and nonfiction. As far as I'm concerned, fiction is about the truth.

  • It takes a long time to write a book. I'm not going to spend that much time trying to deliver a message. The reason I do it is because I want to understand something myself. It's not a delivery device, it's an inquiry device. Didactic fiction to my mind never works. It backfires.

  • Fiction writing is solitary work, but the writing process is not complete until the work is read. A story does not come to life on the page, but in the reader's mind.

    • Kathleen Eagle,
    • "The Outsider," in Michael Dorris and Emilie Buchwald, eds., The Most Wonderful Books ()
  • Fact is seldom as compelling as fiction ...

  • Seldom do the myriad facts of influences of a human relationship arrange themselves into a form convenient for story-telling; that is the chief reason fiction must always mislead its readers.

  • Fiction is a way of exploring possibilities present but undreamt of in the living of a single life.

  • Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

  • Fiction is not a dream. Nor is it guesswork. It is imagining based on facts, and the facts must be accurate or the work of imagining will not stand up.

  • Good fiction creates its own reality.

  • In the theater, as in life, we prefer a villain with a sense of humor to a hero without one.

  • As a creator of character his peculiarity is that he creates wherever his eyes rest ... With such a power at his command Dickens made his books blaze up, not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people upon the fire.

  • I remember how surprised I was when my first novel was about to be published and I was informed that I could be sued for anything any one of my characters said. 'But I often don't agree with what they say,' I protested. The lawyer was not interested in the clear distinction I make between my own voice and the voices of my characters. Neither, I have found, are many of my readers.

    • Jane Rule,
    • "Sexuality in Literature," Outlander ()
  • Fictional characters exist in only two places, neither of which is on the printed page. They exist, first, in the mind of the writer and, second, in the mind of the reader.

  • ... I do believe that in every age there are people whose consciousness transcends their own time and that these people, whether fictional or historical, are those with whom we most closely identify and those about whom we most enjoy reading.

  • I became, and remain, my characters' close and intent watcher: their director, never.

  • One of the strangest quirks of the human mind is its capacity for being moved to tears, laughter, anger, anxiety, joy by a 'person' who exists nowhere except in imagination!

  • Once a character has gelled it's an unmistakable sensation, like an engine starting up within one's body. From then onwards one is driven by this other person, seeing things through their eyes ...

  • The ability to choose puts human beings in control of their actions. Implied in choice is that the action taken is best, and that all other options are overruled. We cannot knowingly choose what is not good for us. The ability to pursue a course, whether it is a popular one or not, is measured in courage. The greater the courage, the greater the possibility we will act for change. I build my characters around the dynamics of choice, courage, and change.

  • ... if an author would have us feel a strong degree of compassion, his characters must not be too perfect.

    • Anna Laetitia Barbauld,
    • "An Inquiry Into Those Kinds of Distress Which Excite Agreeable Sensations," The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, vol. 2 ()
  • Build a concept around a conflict and characters audiences can root for. A dog that savagely kills its owners and then embarks on a search for new owners is a tough sell.

  • Plot springs from character ... I've always sort of believed that these people inside of me — these characters — know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type.

    • Anne Lamott,
    • in Alexander Gordon Smith, Writing Bestselling Children's Books ()
  • ... great villains make great movies.

  • It is hard to make your adversaries real people unless you recognize yourself in them — in which case, if you don't watch out, they cease to be adversaries.

  • ... it is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble the foe ...

  • Show me a character totally without anxieties and I will show you a boring book.

  • I don't engage in self-censorship. But I do change everybody to have red hair in the last draft. ... If you give people red hair when in real life they haven't got red hair, I've noticed they don't recognize themselves, anyway.

  • My characters live inside my head for a long time before I actually start a book. They become so real to me, I talk about them at the dinner table as if they are real. Some people consider this weird. But my family understands.

    • Judy Blume,
    • in Rachel Chandler, The Most Important Lessons in Life ()
  • A writer soon discovers he has no single identity but lives the lives of all the people he creates and his weathers are independent of the actual day around him. I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

  • Characters in the subconscious mind of a writer are not different from prisoners; they are always seeking a way out.

  • I don't think I ever relinquish a person I have known, and surely not my fictional characters. I see them, I hear them, with a clarity that I would call hallucinatory if hallucination didn't mean something else ... A character whom we create can never die, any more than a friend can die ... Through [my characters] I've lived many parallel lives.

  • One nourishes one's created characters with one's own substance: it's rather like the process of gestation. To give the character life, or to give him back life, it is of course necessary to fortify him by contributing something of one's own humanity, but it doesn't follow from that that the character is I, the writer, or that I am the character. The two entities remain distinct.

  • You don't build for the way people live, but for the way they should live. I don't write about people as they are, but as they could be and should be.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • to Frank Lloyd Wright (1944), in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • Are my characters copies of people in real life? ... Don't ever believe the stories about authors putting people into novels. That idea is a kind of joke on both authors and readers. All the readers believe that authors do it. All the authors know that it can't be done.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1945, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • I woke up last night and thought: 'I must call somebody in my next novel Casablanca.' It's such a great name. I don't want to call anybody Fred or Jane or Susan, so when three people get into bed together, you don't know who they are.

  • Fictional characters, he had lately found, were generally more interesting dinner companions than flesh-and-blood ones.

  • Characters make their own plot. The dimensions of the characters determine the action of the novel.

  • Conflict is the place where character and plot intersect.

  • Characterization is not divorced from plot, not a coat of paint you slap on after the structure of events is already built. Rather characterization is inseparable from plot.

  • Lord Peter's large income ... cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet.