Generosity:

(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“Only the writer who has come to understand how difficult it is simply to tell a first-rate story—with no cheap manipulations, no breaks in the dream, no preening or selfconsciousness—is able to appreciate fully the quality of generosity in fiction. In the best fiction, plot is not a series of surprises but an increasingly moving series of recognitions, or moments of understanding.” John Gardner

“The wiser or more experienced writer gives the reader the information he needs to understand the story moment by moment, with the result that instead of asking, as he reads, “What’s going to happen to the characters next?” the reader asks, “What will Frank do next? What would Wanda say if Frank were to…” and so on. Involving himself in the story in this way, the reader feels true suspense, which is to say, true concern for the characters. He takes an active part, however secondary, in the story’s growth and development: he speculates, anticipates.” John Gardner

“It is the importance of this quality of generosity in fiction that requires a measure of childishness in the writer.” John Gardner

“One of the most common mistakes among young writers (those who understand that fiction is storytelling) is the idea that a story gets its power from withheld information—that is, from the writer’s setting the reader up and then bushwhacking him.” John Gardner

“Ungenerous fiction is first and foremost fiction in which the writer is unwilling to take the reader as an equal partner.” John Gardner

“The writer is generous, too, in that, for all his mastery of technique, he introduces only those techniques useful to the story: he is the story’s servant.” John Gardner

“Do not manipulate, but share. Remember your co-creator, he needs the same building blocks you do to build his dream.” Ulf Wolf

“It is no use writing some parts of a novel in order to get to ‘other parts’ or climaxes. Every sentence, every line of dialogue is important. At some instant, that is the sentence or speech that the reader will be reading.” William Sloane

“That the book accompanies the reader forever . . . is part of literature’s profligate generosity.” Pat Conroy

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