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Monday, July 31, 2017

Breathing life and sensation onto the pages

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader.   Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” – E.L. Doctorow

A lifelong New Yorker – born in The Bronx in 1931 and died in Manhattan in July, 1915 – Doctorow was one of the literary world’s great “crafters” of historical fiction.  He once said that it is the historian's place to tell us about a time in history or an era, but it is the novelist's role to tell us how we would act and feel if we lived in that time or era.

His characters exemplified Hemingway's admonition that when writing a novel, the writer should create living people - "... people, not characters.  A character is a caricature."

I thought about Doctorow and his marvelous writing – books like Ragtime, for example – while talking with a radio interviewer about my historical novel And The Wind Whispered.  "You really put us into the time and place," the interviewer said.  "Did you feel an obligation to make that real to us, so that we would know?"

As Doctorow so succinctly said, THAT IS the writer's obligation.  It is not acceptable to be "mostly right."  We must be completely right in what we share         if we are to remain true to our craft and the great writers who have led us along the way.

“One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing,” Doctorow said.  “To put myself in the position of writing to find out what I was writing. I did that with World's Fair, as with all of them. The inventions of the book come as discoveries.”

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