The Key to Writing Great Fiction

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Photo by Paul Brandeo

“The very first thing I tell my students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.”

Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird

The truth. It’s clear we want the truth, even in fiction. We can spot a lie within a fiction story instantly.  That character would never do that! And then we get angry. Have you ever watched your favorite TV series and then someone does something completely out of character and it makes you so angry you quit watching? Ahhhh…for the love of ratings!

Great art is about presenting the truth. It has to come honestly from the heart, not from the desire to shock or manipulate emotions or increase your follower count.

Lamott emphasizes throughout her book the importance of allowing the characters to come to you and to reveal themselves to you. She cautions against inserting dialogue, action and plot that doesn’t emanate naturally from the characters. It will sound forced because it IS forced.

I’m not a painter, sculptor, photographer or actor, but I believe this philosophy pertains to all arts.  As a famous sculptor once said,

“…a knot of wood or a block of marble made it seem that a figure was already enclosed there and my work consisted of breaking off all the rough stone that hid it from me”.”\

Auguste Rodin (The Guardian)

Observe. Wait. The truth will reveal itself.

 

 

 

 

Reverence is the Answer

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By Vittorio Zamboni

“Let’s think of reverence as awe, as presence in and openness to the world.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

 

If you wake up grateful for the day – the sunshine, your comfy bed, your loved ones – and you continue this state of gratitude and presence, imagine how happy you would be.

Have you ever been sick with flu or had a broken bone and then realized you’ve recovered completely? Remember how happy you were just to be “back to normal?” This is gratitude and reverence and you can live in this light all the time, if you choose.