The Liar's Companion: A Field Guide for Fiction Writers
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A must-have collection of essays on the art and craft of fiction from Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block
For ten years, New York Times bestselling crime novelist Lawrence Block drew on the hard-won wisdom he gained creating over one hundred books to write a monthly column for Writer’s Digest. Collected here for the first time are writings that illuminate the tricks of the authorial trade, from creating a fresh story and delivering a powerful ending, to adapting books for the screen and deciding when to make the switch to fulltime writer.
Filled with wit and insight, The Liar’s Companion is a must-read for experts, amateurs, and anyone interested in learning to craft great fiction from one of the field’s modern masters.
averages? If you’ve got one foot in a bucket of ice water and the other in a bucket of boiling water, on the average you’re quite comfortable. Big deal. Consider John O’Hara. Some of his short stories are no more than vignettes, illuminating incidents in the lives of his characters. Others are distinguishable from his novels only by their length; they observe a character over an entire lifespan, doing in a few thousand words what From the Terrace or Ten North Frederick does in a few hundred
short story must reach a higher level of technical excellence if it is to succeed at all. 3 Faulkner said somewhere that every short story writer is a failed poet, and every novelist a failed short story writer. I think I know what he’s getting at—we use more words to do what we could not manage with fewer. I wonder if he’s right. There are novelists who cannot write decent short stories. There are short story writers who are utterly at sea when they attempt a novel. There are some who seem
never held anything but a menial position, and there was really not a great deal that I was qualified to do. As you can see, there was an obvious dollars-and-cents argument for my writing full-time. But dollars-and-cents considerations are rarely the primary determinant. The writer’s temperament, it seems to me, plays a greater role. Two contrasting examples spring to mind, both of them writers of thrillers. First let me tell you about a fellow I’ve known for years. When I first met him he was
connection with school records for our own children. Her grandmother reacted as if she’d been asked to strip naked and roll around on a bed of broken glass. Kathy found this curious, but her grandmother had always been a bit reserved. And, since the woman was deaf, it was not easy to communicate with her. “Earlier, after Kathy’s father had died, she’d received the impression that her grandfather had not indeed died in the war, as she’d been given to understand as a child. But she was never able
all predictions are accurate. Well, I’ve had my chart done a couple of times, and my palm read, and my psychic temperature taken on various occasions. A friend of mine is a rather brilliant psychic, and some of the things she comes up with are uncanny, but she’s nowhere near as accurate as any storefront gypsy palmist ever met with in fiction. In Life As We Know It, most fortunetellers are wrong most of the time. The more specific they get, the less accurate they seem to be. Whether they’re