Saturday, September 28, 2019

Elements of Fiction

Elements of Fiction is a guide/tutorial/master-class on elements of writing aimed at writers (or would-be writers) by well known author Walter Mosley. Released 3rd Sept. 2019 by Grove Atlantic on their Grove Press imprint, it's a concise 128 pages and available in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats.

I've been a fan of Mr. Mosley's crime- and science- fiction for many years and although I don't really have any definite desires to be a writer myself, it's always enlightening to get to see some of the nuts-and-bolts of the process going on behind the scenes. I was hoping for some step-by-step tutorials or hand holding 'start HERE and do this or that' type teaching.  This is emphatically not that book.  What it is, however, is a conversational treatise on the philosophy of the craft and scattered nuggets of real salient wisdom about what makes a good novel good and sometimes great.

As an almost(?) neurotically active reader, I've often experienced having positive or negative feelings about a narrative and not easily being able to articulate precisely why.  There were several gut-punch moments in this book which, for me, shone a light on some of those visceral reactions. I'm tempted to go back and re-read some of those books which confused me with an eye toward deconstructing them in terms of the information in this book.

As a straight up how-to-write-a-novel tutorial, this isn't This Year You Write Your Novel. This book is much less focused on the writing process and more a long conversational essay on writing philosophy. The chapters are very loosely tied together, some of them segueing into the next chapter, some exploring a theme and then petering out. This is not a book with a logical layout and bullet point lists of information. Readers who are looking for easily found info-points, graphs, marketing or any related items will be disappointed. Those who are open to guidance from a lifetime of experience by a gifted writer will find much to assimilate in this book.

Four stars. This is an information rich book, but in a philosophical manner. There are no easy opt-ins for the wisdom Mosley shares, we have to think about what he writes.  I recommend it for readers who want to know the 'why' more than the 'how-to' of writing fiction.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes 

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