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Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques

by James Hynes

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854240,810 (4.07)1
Whether you?re huddled around the campfire, composing an email to a friend, or sitting down to write a novel, storytelling is fundamental to human nature. But as any writer can tell you, the blank page can be daunting. It?s tough to know where to get started, what details to include in each scene, and how to move from the kernel of an idea to a completed manuscript.… (more)



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I enjoyed this course a lot. Hynes is an excellent presenter, and he chooses his examples well. That some of them are from his own novels and stories isn't a handicap--after all, he knows those best and he doesn't overdo it. He also has access to his unpublished drafts, and in one segment he gives us a good overview of the process of revising something so that it achieves far greater effect than his original version. Other than his own works, his examples are wide-ranging, from classic literature to Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. i did get a little bit tired of hearing about Mrs. Dalloway over and over again, however. But it is nice to see him include excellent "genre" writers such as Hammett and Chandler (among others). He also uses movies as examples, which may be cheating, but using the Wizard of Oz to demonstrate the Freytag pyramid is very effective. When he reads from the writers' work as examples, he does a good job as well.

Whether or not this is going to help you sit down and write a novel, or even a short story, is hard to say. it is interesting to get inside a writer's head in this manner, and one can see that Hynes is driven to write. But even if you aren't an aspiring writer, but just an ambitious reader, I recommend this course. Hynes analysis of things such as point of view, settings, characterization, etc. will help you enjoy other things you read a bit more, and some of his insights into his example works are illuminating--but beware of spoilers. The best thing is that Hynes doesn't use the academic gibberish that can so spoil some courses about literature. Naturally after watching the 24 lessons (actually after watching about half of them), I decided to check out some of Hynes' own work, his novel Kings of Infinite Space. Stay tuned for that review. ( )
  datrappert | Aug 1, 2018 |
This book/DVD combination contains 24 half-hour video lectures and a corresponding chapter in the book that summarizes the important points. The chapters average seven pages in length and can be read quickly after viewing the DVD. The topics provide a thorough coverage of the main topics in writing fiction including character development, narration, dialogue, plotting, point of view, and pacing.

The narrator is knowledgeable, articulate, and effective on camera, but the production values are bare-bones. The narrator faces one direction for a couple of minutes, then turns 45 degrees to face the other direction. A few images and graphics are used, and occasionally a list of points of emphasis appears on the screen, but for the most part, the presentation is a straight-forward lecture. Each chapter concludes with a writing exercise and a brief statement of the next topic to be covered.

I found this to be an excellent overview of writing from a scholarly point of view, but I doubt it will be useful in teaching users how to write. The exercises, for example, are not particularly useful. This material will be most satisfying to readers who desire an intellectual analysis of important considerations in writing and evaluating fiction. ( )
  Tatoosh | Jul 13, 2018 |
Learning how to write isn't something you can do by reading books about writing or listening to lectures on the subject unless you are, at the same time, actually writing and doing it seriously. Why? Because theory is all well and good, but until you can actually see how these things operate in your own work, it's really difficult to assimilate those lessons.

I'm glad I came to this course after having begun to ghost write. The lessons I've learned by actually creating someone else's vision of a story mesh beautifully with what Professor Hynes is telling us in his lectures. He talks about structure and technique, of course, but he also covers topics like research, and the why of writing. I often found myself nodding vigorously as he discussed things like revising as you go vs. having to do it all once you've created a draft. (I've done it both ways, and I'll revise as I write, thanks very much, because by the time I hit the end of the story, I'm so sick of it that I never want to look at it again. For at least six months anyway.) His lecture on the balance between research and imagination struck familiar chords with me since it's often a difficult balance to maintain. Now, when I'm doing fiction research, I want to put a sticky note on my computer screen that says, "Don't' be a show-off!"

This is a course where the companion PDF is hugely useful because you will probably want to follow along and annotate, add bookmarks, and use the (substantial) bibliography to follow up on ideas in the lectures. But it isn't just for writers, or at least I don't think it ought to be, necessarily. Readers could benefit from listening, and learning what it is they're seeing on the page, learning what kind of planning goes into the books they enjoy, or perhaps why they didn't enjoy a particular book as much as they thought they would. Yeah, I know that's a lot of work, and no, it doesn't have a plot or a romance, or even a happy ending where the antagonist is foiled and the protagonist lives happily ever after, but if you love fiction, why not learn more about it? Writing has made me a better reader.

Possibly a weirder one, it's hard to say.

So for working writers, this course is valuable. For aspiring ones, it may be a little scary. For readers, it might be eye-opening. Something for everyone here, at least in my opinion. And how can that be bad? ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Nov 2, 2017 |
Not until I read this did I understand what it meant for fiction to be evocative, and how to make it so. That's what two listen-throughs got me. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
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Whether you?re huddled around the campfire, composing an email to a friend, or sitting down to write a novel, storytelling is fundamental to human nature. But as any writer can tell you, the blank page can be daunting. It?s tough to know where to get started, what details to include in each scene, and how to move from the kernel of an idea to a completed manuscript.

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