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September 30, 2011

Bringing the Devil to His Knees

From time to time I like to share books about writing that I've found especially useful or interesting.  The latest one I've been reading,  Bringing the Devil to His Knees: the Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life is comprised of essays originally presented as lectures in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.  The book is not an assemblage of how-to-write rules, but instead, an exploration of writing approaches.  The essays are divided into three categories:  Techniques, Devices, and Strategies; Maps and Legends; and Facing Up to the Reader.  As in any collection, some essays stand out as more relevant than others, but which essays a reader finds useful will no doubt vary with the reader's own needs as a writer.  The chapter with the greatest impact on me, "In Defense of Omniscience" by Richard Russo, inspired me to step away from my usual first-person narrative style and begin writing my current draft in third person omniscient.  Within the essay, Russo also touches on balancing showing with telling, which is something I'm constantly evaluating in my own writing.

The closing of the book's introduction states: "This book does not mean to provide--cannot provide--a set of answers.  At best it will be suggestive (in the best sense), informative, and inspiring".  It delivers exactly what it promises.

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