4 out of 4 stars
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Short-story veteran, William. H. Coles condenses his years of experience into this book which attempts to explain the intricacies involved in creating powerful literary fiction stories.
Having read a few of Coles’ books, most of which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was quite pleased and excited to finds this manual listed on the website. And after reading, I am satisfied with the amount of knowledge I obtained from this.
The author starts off the book by describing the distinction between literary fiction and other forms of fiction like genre fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction, and a host of others. He defined this form of writing as the kind that is “important and memorable, with permanent artistic (creative) value,” and those features can be found in most of Coles’ writing.
The author then went on to explain the basics of the craft – characterisation, dialogue, […] narration – with more depth than I would have expected to find, and several examples that show the efficiency of his processes. Most memorably, was his retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, which, besides showing the nuances of point-of-view, was a really fun read.
Valuable as this book was, however, it had a few notable kinks. Coles’ understanding of his craft is no doubt impeccable, but reading this, I got the sense he didn’t think too highly of other forms of fiction. I personally do not think literary fiction, whether or not it has permanent artistic value, exceeds a good mystery novel, but subjectivity comes into play here.
I also found a lot of complex sentence structure in this book, some of which called for a second glance, and there seems to be a bit of indecision about the name of the book. On the website it is listed as ‘Creating Literary Stories: A Fiction Writer’s Guide,’ but in every other page of the book, the header goes ‘Creating Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers.’ This and a few other formatting errors mar what seems to be generally good editing.
These issues taken in to account, however, I still feel comfortable rating this book 4 out of 4 simply because of the value it provides. I believe that regardless of their personal goals, this would be a priceless tool for any prospective writer. Even seasoned authors might grasp a thing or two from Cole’s sagely words.
Hence, I recommend this to all creative fiction writers. And even if you’ve only just started on your journey, I cannot think of a better place to begin.
Creating Literary Stories: A Fiction Writer's Guide
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