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Some Quotes About Fiction

Authors famous and not-so-famous often have something to say about the act and the art of writing fiction itself. Here's a selection of them to nudge you along in your own quest to be a writer:

'For if the proper study of mankind is man, it is evidently more sensible to occupy yourself with the coherent, substantial and significant creatures of fiction than with the irrational and shadowy figures of real life.' -W. Somerset Maugham

'The really great novel tends to be the exact negative of its author's life.' -André Maurois

'Would you not like to try all sorts of lives -- one is so very small -- but that is the satisfaction of writing -- one can impersonate so many people.' -Katherine Mansfield

'The final test for a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we cannot define.' -E. M. Forster

'The time-honored bread-sauce of the happy ending.' -Henry James

'You know that fiction, prose rather, is possibly the roughest trade of all in writing. You do not have the reference, the old important reference. You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true. You have to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and also have it seem normal and so that it can become a part of experience of the person who reads it.' -Ernest Hemingway

'The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.' -Oscar Wilde 'Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.' -Mark Twain 'The acceptance that all that is solid has melted into the air, that reality and morality are not givens but imperfect human constructs, is the point from which fiction begins.' -Salman Rushdie

'A good piece of fiction, in my view, does not offer solutions. Good stories deal with our moral struggles, our uncertainties, our dreams, our blunders, our contradictions, our endless quest for understanding. Good stories do not resolve the mysteries of the human spirit but rather describe and expand up on those mysteries.' -Tim O’Brien

'We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer's task is to invent the reality.' -J. G. Ballard

'Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.' -Virginia Woolf

'Fiction is not imagination. It is what anticipates imagination by giving it the form of reality.' -Jean Baudrillard

'One should not be too severe on English novels; they are the only relaxation of the intellectually unemployed.' -Oscar Wilde

'We care about moral issues, nobility, decency, happiness, goodness—the issues that matter in the real world, but which can only be addressed, in their purity, in fiction.' -Orson Scott Card

'And what are you reading, Miss -- -? Oh! it is only a novel! replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda ; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.' -Jane Austen

'Writing novels preserves you in a state of innocence -- a lot passes you by -- simply because your attention is otherwise diverted.' -Anita Brookner

'Undermining experience, embellishing experience, rearranging and enlarging experience into a species of mythology.' -Philip Roth

'When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which they suggest to him.' -Luigi Pirandello

'Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.' -Virginia Woolf

'It's with bad sentiments that one makes good novels.' -Aldous Huxley


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