Tuesday, October 25, 2011
What Would Edith Wharton Do?
Many religious Christians wear a bracelet with the initials WWJD? As I embark on my new novel, I have an imaginary bracelet which reads WWEWD? Instead of Jesus, what would Edith Wharton do?
Inspired also because I am in Paris at the moment, just three blocks from her house at 53 Rue de Varenne, I have been reading her exceedingly odd book, The Writing of Fiction, published in 1924, when she had been a Parisian for a decade. Very often I don't agree with her, but I am finding her thoughts on writing fiction to be suprising and sometimes fantastically illuminating. On the subject of dialogue in the novel, she writes:
"The use of dialogue in fiction seems to be one of the few things about which a fairly definite rule may be laid down. It should be reserved for the culmnating moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore. This lifting and scattering of the wave, the coruscation of the spray, even the mere material sights of the page broken into short, uneven paragraphs, all help to reinforce the ocntrast between such climaxes and the smooth effaced gliding of the narrative intervals; and the contrast enhances that sense of the passage of time for the producing of which the writer has to depend on his intervening narration. Thus the sparing use of dialogue not only serves to emphasiz the crises of the tale but to give it as a whole a greater effect of continuous development."