Thanks, Zu, for sharing your thoughts on telling tales from inside-the-egg of childhood. I hope you will share the title of the book where your essay appears. I'd love to read it. You've given us a lot to think about. And thank you, too, for sharing the great news about Tami and the exciting changes at
This week I'm going to talk a little bit about enchantment, not in the sense of fantasy, or at least, not exactly. I'm going to talk about the writer as enchanter. That may sound strange, but bear with me.
Plunk your quarter in the tollbooth and here we go.
I'm going to start with a quote from Nabokov. In Lectures on Literature, he writes:
"There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he
may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A
major writer combines these three- storyteller, teacher, enchanter- but it
is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer."
In order to accomplish "enchantment," a writer must move beyond mere recitation of narrative. A writer must involve the reader in the unfolding of the story. This is the point at which the old maxim, "show, don't tell," is dutifully trotted out. But, how exactly does a writer show and not tell? What are some ways to enchant readers?
That rather daunting subject is what I plan to discuss this week. Needless to say, the pursuit of enchantment is a lifelong endeavor. What I mean is, there is no terminus on that toll road. You are always on the journey, picking up new ideas along the way. But every journey has to start somewhere. And so we begin with the master, John Gardner and The Art of Fiction.
On page 97 of The Art of Fiction,
Any time you find yourself writing a simple subject-verb summation of action, an "abstraction," if you will, throw it up against the wall and see if you are guilty of inserting a filtering consciousness in between your story and the reader. If so, eliminate it. You don't it. All is does is slow down the action.
And speaking of revisiting, this is where we need to stop for today. Tomorrow we'll continue this discussion with examples from contemporary children's literature. I hope you'll stop by.