Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness by Leon Surmelian (Introduction by Mark Schorer) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 2, 2011
Writing is like dancing in some ways, the movement, the underlining meaning that is portrayed using the slightest metaphors and similes. The fact that writers write and dancers dance is merely a slight change in medium. What us writers use to show the world our opinions is a canvas of paper, what dancers use is their body as a picture show. Recently I have started reading "Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness" by Leon Surmelian (Introduction by Mark Schorer). When I bought this book I thought it would help me with the way I write. The structure and balance between the dialogue and personality descriptions. I know those are the things I struggle with. But in reading the lengthy introduction (thirteen pages) and the first twelve pages of the book itself I realized that I first need to find my personal style in writing and what I feel most comfortable with, my "language". According to Mark Schorer, "The first responsibility of the creative writer is to his language and to his technique, because only through these can the creative impulse itself find its realization".

Sound complicated? You have to read some parts of this book a few times before you get the meaning, and you have to be really concentrating on what the true meaning of the context is. In the statement in paragraph above Schorer is saying that the creative writer is responsible for his "language" or the way the writer speaks through his writing. The writer is required to show his personal style throughout his work, in the way he portrays scenes, and describes the setting. The writer is also responsible for his "technique" as in the way he shows what he knows about writing. The subtle metaphors and similes he integrates that no one but a writer would notice. Within this introduction Schorer mentions Ezra Pound and he quotes something Pound said in relation to technique: "A work of art need not contain any statement of a political or of a social or of a philosophical conviction, but it nearly implies one." In this statement Pound emphasizes that a writer need not state something in a matter of fact way but merely suggest it within a scene or dialogue.

When the book finally gets to the "Measure and Madness" it starts with the basic structure of a story. Beginning with Scene, Surmelian states that "Every writer re-creates in words, what he sees, and there are different ways of seeing." He then goes on to say that summary in a story is less important than the dialogue, he uses an excerpt from a book to show that the dialogue in a story has more significance than the description of the people involved in the dialogue. And this really impacted me because I began to see how a personality description just clutters up a scene. Its better to integrate the personality traits of a character into different situations that they find themselves in. You want to gradually insert different facts about the characters so it doesn't seem that you, as the author of the story, essentially become a "narrator". Making it so the reader feels like the story is being "told to them" rather than the desired feeling of being "inside the story".

I have yet to finish reading this book but I feel that by the end of it I will be a much better writer in the technical sense, and it will have helped the evolution of my personal style.

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