November 10, 2016

Nancy Kress Quotes

“A brief short story may require only a few paragraphs after the climax. On the other hand, in his massive novel ‘The World According to Garp,’ John Irving’s denouement consisted of 10 separate sections, each devoted to an individual character’s fate and each almost a story in itself.”

“A stereotype may be negative or positive, but even positive stereotypes present two problems: They are cliches, and they present a human being as far more simple and uniform than any human being actually is.”

“A true epilogue is removed from the story in time or space. That’s the reason it is called an ‘Epilogue’; the label serves to alert the reader that the story itself is over, but we are going to now see a distant result or consequence of that story.”

“All nonmimetic fiction is a balancing act between ‘reality’ and the obviously unreal, with no attempt by the author to make the latter seem like the former. Sometimes it’s not an easy tightrope to walk. But when it succeeds, such fiction can brilliantly illuminate the human condition.”

“All writers, in all viewpoints, must choose which information and scenes will be presented, and in which order. In that sense, the author is always represented as a point of view in a work of fiction. His hand can always be detected by the discerning.”

“As a writer, you must know what promise your story or novel makes. Your reader will know.”

“Before the scene, before the paragraph, even before the sentence, comes the word. Individual words and phrases are the building blocks of fiction, the genes that generate everything else. Use the right words, and your fiction can blossom. The French have a phrase for it – le mot juste – the exact right word in the exact right position.”

“Conflict drives fiction; no one wants to read a four-hundred-page novel in which everything rolls along smoothly.”

“Even if your novel occurs in an unfamiliar setting in which all the customs and surroundings will seem strange to your reader, it’s still better to start with action. The reason for this is simple. If the reader wanted an explanation of milieu, he would read nonfiction. He doesn’t want information. He wants a story.”

“Every drama requires a cast. The cast may be so huge, as in Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina,’ that the author or editor provides a list of characters to keep them straight. Or it may be an intimate cast of two.”

“Every story makes a promise to the reader. Actually, two promises, one emotional and one intellectual, since the function of stories is to make us both feel and think.”

“Exposition has legitimate uses. It’s the most efficient way to summarize background information, including necessary information about a character’s history. It can set the stage well for a major dramatized event.”

“For commercial books in a genre, readers’ and editors’ expectations may be fairly rigid. Some romance lines, for instance, issue fairly detailed writers’ guidelines explaining exactly what must happen in a book they publish (and what must not).”

“For the professional writer, stories must be presented as a series of individual scenes, each one dramatized with dialogue and telling descriptions of who is present and what they’re all doing.”

“How many times have you opened a book, read the first few sentences and made a snap decision about whether to buy it? When it’s your book that’s coming under this casual-but-critical scrutiny, you want the reader to be instantly hooked. The way to accomplish this is to create compelling opening sentences.”

“If you consistently write ‘The sun set’ rather than ‘The sun sank slowly in the bright western sky,’ your story will move three times as fast. Of course, there are times you want the longer version for atmosphere – but not many. Wordiness not only kills pace; it bores readers.”

“If your reader has been given a rousing opening, he will usually then sit still for at least some exposition. But be sure to follow that chunk of telling with one or more dramatized scenes. That’s much more effective than being given section after section of telling.”

“If you’re writing a thriller, mystery, Western or adventure-driven book, you’d better keep things moving rapidly for the reader. Quick pacing is vital in certain genres. It hooks readers, creates tension, deepens the drama, and speeds things along.”

“In fiction, a reaction shot is a brief portrayal of how your character reacts to something that someone else has done. In contrast to more direct character building, your guy doesn’t initiate the sequence; he completes it. Exactly how he completes it can tell readers a lot about him.”

“Questions that require answers are what keep readers going – and the place to start raising those questions is with your very first sentence.”

“Readers want to see, hear, feel, smell the action of your story, even if that action is just two people having a quiet conversation.”

“The process, not the results, have to be the reason a writer writes. Otherwise, creating a four-hundred-page novel is just too daunting a task.”

“The truth is, you have about three paragraphs in a short story, three pages in a novel, to capture that editor’s attention enough for her to finish your story.”

“The worldview implied by literary fiction is complex and ambiguous, trying to be faithful to the complexity and ambiguity of life.”

“Without coffee, nothing gets written. Period.”

“You do not have to dramatize everything. In fact, you usually can’t, not without ending up with a half-million-word novel.”