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John Gardner and The Art of Fiction

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John Gardner and The Art of Fiction

After reading The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, I am definitely more knowledgeable on the topic of writing fiction than I was before. The first sentence of this book reads, "This is a book designed to teach the serious beginning writer the art of fiction" (ix). I believe it does just that and perhaps much more. The book is divided into two main sections: "notes on literary-aesthetic theory" and "notes on the fictional process." This allows the reader to hear commentary on two very different views of fiction, thus giving the aspiring writer a well-rounded understanding of the subject.

Although a large part of this books deals with the method one uses to write a successful piece of fiction ("notes on the fictional process"), a substantial section is devoted to helping the student understand exactly what fiction is and what it should try to accomplish (notes on literary-aesthetic theory). This point is emphasized in the preface of the book, in which Gardner explains, "Understanding very clearly what fiction 'goes for,' how it works as a mode of thought, in short what the art of fiction is, is the first step towards writing well" (x).

From this point in the preface, Gardner goes on to state in the first chapter of the book that there are no set rules or laws that one has to follow when writing a piece of fiction. This is not to say that rules do not exist; however, they can always be bent or even broken in any given situation. In short, the rules of writing a piece of fiction are only what the writer makes them out to be, and as long as the piece of fiction follows some kind of rule, it will not fail.

Of all the points that Gardner made in The Art of Fictio...

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...en I began reading this book, I will have to admit that I had a grudge against books of this kind. This is mainly because I was under the impression that books such as The Art of Fiction attempted to tell you how a piece of fiction ought to be written. However, I quickly learned that I was wrong. All this book attempts to do is teach the young writer about fiction and the many ways it can be approached. Furthermore, Gardner encourages the reader to chart his or her own course when it comes to writing fiction and not feel bound by a set of rules, an idea that I agree with wholeheartedly.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me about this book is that I actually found it enjoyable and interesting to read. Not only did reading this book make me a better writer, it also refreshed my interest in writing fiction, an interest that I may pursue far beyond high school.
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