Very Simple Writing Advice from James Wood

  • Writers should treat their fictions with the deference due something real; or, if they don’t, they should show that they understand the consequences of not doing so.
  • They should grant characters their measure of "metaphysical presence," not move them around like pawns in "metafictional games."
  • Authors should be "gravely affirmative" before they give themselves license to be "gravely skeptical."
  • They should "inhabit" their stories, rather than play with them.
  • Details should be sprinkled with a light but deliberate touch (tact, of course, comes from the Latin for touch) and imbued with the weight of what the medieval theologian Duns Scotus called "thisness": "By thisness," Wood writes, "I mean any detail that draws abstraction toward itself and seems to kill that abstraction with a puff of palpability."
  • Dialogue should hold back as much as, if not more than, it says.
  • A good metaphor does not just conform to a character’s worldview; it "hovers around the character, and seems to emanate from that character’s world."

Thisness? Gravely affirmative? Metaphysical presence? Deference due something real?

I guess this is why I’m a mere blogger and at times a wannabe non-fiction writer, not someone deep into the world of fiction and serious criticism.

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