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Hints on Writing Short Stories
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Hints on Writing Short Stories
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Hints on Writing Short Stories by Charles Joseph Finger (1922). In the first place, there must be Sincerity. Without that nothing can be done. Sincere work will be good work, and sincere work will be original work. With sincerity, you will have honesty and simplicity, both of which are cardinal virtues in the literary man. Also, with sincerity there will be courage. You know, as well as I know, that when you meet an in- sincere man, you detect him at once. Were you ever deceived, for instance, by the rounded periods of some political rhetorician? Perhaps for a moment you may have been carried away in spite of your better sense, but, certainly, the effect was not lasting. Examining yourself, you will certainly remember that before you could persuade others, you had to be thoroughly convinced of the essential right of the thing itself. In the same fashion then, you must be persuaded of the truth of that which you wish to be accepted when writing. I do not speak of controversial matters. I write of fiction. You must have so thoroughly identified yourself with your characters that they are as living creatures to you. Then only shall they be living characters to your readers. If you have read the Pickwick Papers and have learned to know and love Samuel Pickwick, you will know exactly what I mean. In that character, the young Charles Dickens lost himself. In creating Mr. Pickwick he was entirely sincere. He watched the character grow from a somewhat simple-minded old gentleman to a lovable, jolly fellow to meet whom you would walk half round the world. Pick- wick was real to Dickens; therefore he is real to us. Observe this too; he had his faults. Mr. Pickwick would not have been considered rna good or a moral character to many of the “unco guid” of today. He often drank too much. Had there been nation wide prohibition in England in his day, he would certainly have drunk home brew with Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer exactly as he went to prison for conscience sake. He and his companions enjoyed the pleasures of the table too well for latter day tastes. He was obstinate on occasion, just as I am obstinate. Had Dickens been insincere, he might have been tempted to sponge out the bad spots in his character. But then he would have given us something that was not a man. The truth is that we want something of the sensuous and the gross in those about us. None of us want to live with angels and saints. So we reject instinctively as impossible and unpleasant, those perfect, etherealized creations some times found in stories — those returns all compounded of nobility, courage, beauty, generosity and wisdom which insincere writers try to foist upon us. They do not ring true. We detect their hollowness just as we detect the hollowness of the flamboyant boastings of the political orator.
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