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How Fiction Works: Proven Secrets to Writing Successful Stories That Hook Readers and Sell

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Think of your fiction like a clock, a marvel of mainsprings and wheels, pinions and pendulums. It's an extraordinary organization of diverse elements, channeling energy and tension into the regular coordination of action and reaction, rotating gears and moving hands. Oakley Hall, writing teacher emeritus, invites you as his apprentice to study fiction's inner workings, the Think of your fiction like a clock, a marvel of mainsprings and wheels, pinions and pendulums. It's an extraordinary organization of diverse elements, channeling energy and tension into the regular coordination of action and reaction, rotating gears and moving hands. Oakley Hall, writing teacher emeritus, invites you as his apprentice to study fiction's inner workings, the pegs and screws upon which a good story depends. You'll find the elements of fiction examined and illuminated, with insights into how they must interact to create a distinctive story. In sharing lessons taught by years of experience and by citing examples from dozens of esteemed writers, Hall makes working alongside a master thoroughly pleasurable, as well as an invaluable opportunity to craft fiction that is tuned like a precision timepiece.


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Think of your fiction like a clock, a marvel of mainsprings and wheels, pinions and pendulums. It's an extraordinary organization of diverse elements, channeling energy and tension into the regular coordination of action and reaction, rotating gears and moving hands. Oakley Hall, writing teacher emeritus, invites you as his apprentice to study fiction's inner workings, the Think of your fiction like a clock, a marvel of mainsprings and wheels, pinions and pendulums. It's an extraordinary organization of diverse elements, channeling energy and tension into the regular coordination of action and reaction, rotating gears and moving hands. Oakley Hall, writing teacher emeritus, invites you as his apprentice to study fiction's inner workings, the pegs and screws upon which a good story depends. You'll find the elements of fiction examined and illuminated, with insights into how they must interact to create a distinctive story. In sharing lessons taught by years of experience and by citing examples from dozens of esteemed writers, Hall makes working alongside a master thoroughly pleasurable, as well as an invaluable opportunity to craft fiction that is tuned like a precision timepiece.

30 review for How Fiction Works: Proven Secrets to Writing Successful Stories That Hook Readers and Sell

  1. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall is not to be confused with the more acclaimed How Fiction Works by James Wood (who is in turn not to be confused with the actor James Woods). Of the two the latter book is superior, being more precise and nuanced in its analysis. However this book by Oakley Hall is more comprehensive, though really it's little more than a detailed overview of the subject. Hall chooses examples for his analysis from literary fiction, which I appreciate. This is not a "how to write How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall is not to be confused with the more acclaimed How Fiction Works by James Wood (who is in turn not to be confused with the actor James Woods). Of the two the latter book is superior, being more precise and nuanced in its analysis. However this book by Oakley Hall is more comprehensive, though really it's little more than a detailed overview of the subject. Hall chooses examples for his analysis from literary fiction, which I appreciate. This is not a "how to write a bestseller in X days" type book. Hall does really attempt to break down the components of good writing, using the greats as his references. It's easy to criticise books like this for for their reductionist approach, their use of overly simple rules to solve very complex problems, and the offensive implication that there is only one "correct" way to write fiction. As an example, in the very first chapter, Hall advocates for specificity rather than abstraction in writing. To this end he suggests rewriting this sentence: The man walked across the floor. As this: The burly security man hastened across the black and white tiles. To me, this epitomises what's wrong with this kind of analysis. The second sentence reads as so laboured and contrived. Why should we care about the man's build and the colour of the tiles? Does substituting "walked" with "hastened" really add anything? Should good writers fill their prose with such unnecessary detail for the sake of specificity? I would argue that in almost any context, the problem with the first sentence is that it is entirely superfluous. A good writer should be able to analyse their writing, and try to find the best way to express what they are trying to say, not simply search for synonyms and throw in some extra adjectives. It would be a real mistake for an aspiring writer to take Hall's suggestion literally and to use it as the basis for revising their work, but that's not to say that this book is not worth reading. How Fiction Works succeeds in providing an overview of important ideas and techniques, which, generally speaking are reasonably sound. What is important is that the writer develops an ability to analyse their work, consider different perspectives and different viewpoints, and apply what they know to their writing. Overall, this is a pretty good analysis of fiction, but do not treat it as an authoritative "how-to" guide.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Part One: The Dramatic Method, is full of useful analyses of the tools of fiction and loaded with examples from a wide range of authors. While it's true that Hall uses some excerpts from his own fiction to illustrate points, this didn't feel indulgent to me, as these were a fraction of the whole and served the same purpose as all the other excerpts from a variety of authors. I imagine I'll come back to part one of this book as a reference in the future. Part Two: The Forms of Fiction, is less use Part One: The Dramatic Method, is full of useful analyses of the tools of fiction and loaded with examples from a wide range of authors. While it's true that Hall uses some excerpts from his own fiction to illustrate points, this didn't feel indulgent to me, as these were a fraction of the whole and served the same purpose as all the other excerpts from a variety of authors. I imagine I'll come back to part one of this book as a reference in the future. Part Two: The Forms of Fiction, is less useful. It's also considerably shorter. Here, Hall does indulge in presenting his own fiction; the section about short stories includes two stories that he wrote early in his career. Purportedly, these illustrate some point, but I didn't read them since I was more interested in the section on novels. This was disappointing taken as a whole, although it had several paragraphs that were worth reading. Fortunately, Part One: The Dramatic Method forms the majority of the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clove

    The book works if you're looking for prompts to get you thinking in the right direction, rather than a how-to guide. That part worked for me. I found it to be of limited value, but of great value within those limits, (i.e. straight-up narrative fiction). It's also totally possible that I read the whole thing through fangirl-coloured glasses. I mean, it's basically a curated selection of writing samples that serve as his curriculum. Whatever. I think it's a neat way to teach. I got some stuff out The book works if you're looking for prompts to get you thinking in the right direction, rather than a how-to guide. That part worked for me. I found it to be of limited value, but of great value within those limits, (i.e. straight-up narrative fiction). It's also totally possible that I read the whole thing through fangirl-coloured glasses. I mean, it's basically a curated selection of writing samples that serve as his curriculum. Whatever. I think it's a neat way to teach. I got some stuff out of it...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class. Well, Hall is a published writer, but unlike other authors of books on fiction craft on my shelves (ie Stephen King and Elizabeth George) neither a "name" author nor one who I've read and personally admire. There's not much I have read elsewhere i An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class. Well, Hall is a published writer, but unlike other authors of books on fiction craft on my shelves (ie Stephen King and Elizabeth George) neither a "name" author nor one who I've read and personally admire. There's not much I have read elsewhere in this book either. It's staying on my shelves for two reasons. One, Hall has a more literary sensibility than many another writing book I've read--I like how he uses a lot of classic literature in his examples. (And examples of bad writing too--that's valuable). And I like his lists on the back of books to read :-)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Perry

    Hall loved to illustrate points by quoting his own prolific oeuvre- though the points were made it didn't much inspire me to read his fiction! Anyway, this is a great book for literature lovers, "technical gobbledygook" is clearly explained, and loads of great writers get to have their say, whether it's Garcia Marquez on the adverb, or Wilkie Collins on point of view narrators. Most writers and readers will intuitively know all these points- but it's still a fun and intelligent read, with good adv Hall loved to illustrate points by quoting his own prolific oeuvre- though the points were made it didn't much inspire me to read his fiction! Anyway, this is a great book for literature lovers, "technical gobbledygook" is clearly explained, and loads of great writers get to have their say, whether it's Garcia Marquez on the adverb, or Wilkie Collins on point of view narrators. Most writers and readers will intuitively know all these points- but it's still a fun and intelligent read, with good advice that inspires you to have a go yourself. There's also an appendix of recommended books(about 200 of them) "Should writers have read all these novels? Yes, they should have." This is a picture of Hall with some of his books: http://www.squawvalleywriters.org/oak...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ogi Ogas

    My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lalonde

    Disappointing. Long on examples and short on instruction, and what there was of the latter tended towards the dubious and the self-contradictory. If you know enough to muddle through the chaff to find the few decent grains, then you don't need the book anyway. Disappointing. Long on examples and short on instruction, and what there was of the latter tended towards the dubious and the self-contradictory. If you know enough to muddle through the chaff to find the few decent grains, then you don't need the book anyway.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This book starts out explaining concepts and giving examples of each. The examples increase in length and quantity while the explanations decrease as the book progresses. -Joe-

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sean Scapellato

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  12. 4 out of 5

    Adam Scott

  13. 4 out of 5

    El Gato

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Treacy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gomah

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rick Northrop

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tim McBain

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Robert

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gary D.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Will

  21. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

  22. 5 out of 5

    theodore

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thom

  24. 5 out of 5

    Henry McLaughlin

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Reeves

    I found this book useful, and I find myself turning back through it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nanna

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  28. 4 out of 5

    Randy Lavender

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michele Garcia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Caldwell

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