Klaassen (Cracks, 2014, etc.) identifies 11 different aspects of writing fiction in this how-to manual.
The average reader is probably familiar with some of the elements of fiction creation (or “modes,” as Klaassen terms them): “exposition,” “narration,” “action.” Others may seem a bit harder to pin down—“introspection,” for example, or “recollection.” There are 11 in all, according to the author’s categorization, and he’s quick to point out that no other available system currently recognizes them all: “If you don’t know the eleven, you may be writing without all the tools available to you,” he says. “That’s the equivalent of a painter trying to create masterpieces with only a few colors.” He gives each mode its own chapter, or more than one: a full quarter of the book, for instance, is dedicated to the mysteries of “conversation.” The book compiles the modes into larger divisions of “interiority,” “activity,” “dialogue,” and “exteriority.” Each chapter breaks into subsections tackling smaller topics, with many examples and checklists to keep the information organized and aid readers’ comprehension. The book’s chapter content tables and concluding reiterations of major points make the work bear a greater resemblance to a textbook than to many other writing guides. The book is surprisingly comprehensive, given its relatively short length, and it dedicates sections to questions as specific as the use of slang and the difference between concrete and abstract nouns. There’s a lot of advice here that even experienced writers may not have encountered before (such as, “In part, the amount of description depends upon the genre in which you are writing”). By the time Klaassen gets to “show, don’t tell,” readers will have gotten their money’s worth many times over. Overall, this book sits at the Apollonian end of the spectrum of writing guides, as the author attempts to break fiction writing down into as replicable a craft as possible. Free-spirited writers may prefer the softer, more personal touches of Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg, but aspiring scribblers who want to quickly absorb the fundamentals of the medium will find Klaassen’s book to be a concise manual.
An orderly, no-frills guide to the craft of fiction writing.