A text for students or writers studying fiction at the level of first or second year in college or the equivalent. This work has grown out of earlier versions I composed for distance learning courses (including study of the novel and writing of fiction), so its explanations should be useful to the person who is learning independently as well as to students enrolled in classroom courses. The main focus of this version is upon studying the short story, with some comments about novellas and a segment on novels. The section on writing about fiction is tailored for students in college courses, but the principles covered are applicable to other writing tasks. Furthermore, some of the sample essays could be useful resources in themselves.
For centuries, the written word has been a method by which people have spoken to their contemporaries and then to later generations. Like music, painting, and other forms of art, works of literature give shape to ideas. An author has what we might call a sense or idea about life, about some aspect of life, and he or she shapes that idea into a literary text. People who read and interpret the text, just like people who see paintings or listen to music, participate in the ideas and feelings of the creator of the work.
More about: John D. Nesbitt