The Art of Fiction

A Guide for Writers and Readers.

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and ReadersI’m a pretty big fan of Ayn Rand, having read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged at least two times each. (I’m due for another round.) So when I found The Art of Fiction, a book edited by Tore Boeckmann from audiotapes of Rand’s 1958 lectures to about 20 friends and acquaintances, I grabbed it. I’m now making my way through it, page by page.

The book covers Rand’s ideas about writing and reading fiction. I’ve just finished the first two chapters, and so far, it’s mostly from the writer’s point of view. And I have to admit that it’s taught me a whole different way of thinking about writing fiction.

In Chapter 1: Writing and the Subconscious, she discusses how writers draw upon information stored in their subconscious for descriptions and mood-setting words. A writer who can write well without struggling for the words knows what he’s trying to say and has mastered his subconscious.

In Chapter 2: Literature as an Art Form, she pretty much bashes writers who break the rules and attempt to write “nonobjectively,” resulting in text that’s impossible (or nearly so) to understand. She cites Gertrude Stein and James Joyce as examples. She asserts that a writer should choose every word carefully to convey the writer’s exact meaning. She also approaches the topic of “show, don’t tell” by discussing concretes (descriptions) and abstractions (the message the author is trying to communicate).

The next chapter is on Theme, which I’ve always struggled with. It’ll be interesting to see how she tackles the topic.

When I’m finished reading, I may update this entry or compose a new one with my final verdict. It’s not a quick read — Ayn Rand never is. But I am enjoying it. And learning.

What do you think?