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The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

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Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page. John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love War Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page. John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love Warps the Mind a Little and Deep in the Shade of Paradise, demystifies the writing process. Drawing upon the wisdom of literature's great craftsmen, Dufresne's lucid essays and diverse exercises initiate the reader into the tools, processes, and techniques of writing: inventing compelling characters, developing a voice, creating a sense of place, editing your own words. Where do great ideas come from? How do we recognize them? How can language capture them? In his signature comic voice, Dufresne answers these questions and more in chapters such as "Writing Around the Block," "Plottery," and "The Art of Abbreviation." Dufresne demystifies the writing process, showing that while the idea of writing may be overwhelming, the act of writing is simplicity itself.


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Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page. John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love War Finally, a truly creative—and hilarious—guide to creative writing, full of encouragement and sound advice. Provocative and reassuring, nurturing and wise, The Lie That Tells a Truth is essential to writers in general, fiction writers in particular, beginning writers, serious writers, and anyone facing a blank page. John Dufresne, teacher and the acclaimed author of Love Warps the Mind a Little and Deep in the Shade of Paradise, demystifies the writing process. Drawing upon the wisdom of literature's great craftsmen, Dufresne's lucid essays and diverse exercises initiate the reader into the tools, processes, and techniques of writing: inventing compelling characters, developing a voice, creating a sense of place, editing your own words. Where do great ideas come from? How do we recognize them? How can language capture them? In his signature comic voice, Dufresne answers these questions and more in chapters such as "Writing Around the Block," "Plottery," and "The Art of Abbreviation." Dufresne demystifies the writing process, showing that while the idea of writing may be overwhelming, the act of writing is simplicity itself.

30 review for The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Ugh...pretension, pretension, pretension. If you want to write about writing without making it a memoir, you will come off as pretentious. Unless you are J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (who has done it pretty successfully), you cannot write about writing without coming off as pretentious. Especially if you constantly quote your own work when explaining how to write an awesome short story. Lame. But there were some great tips! Amazing advice on how to write dialogue, a mouth-watering comprehensive li Ugh...pretension, pretension, pretension. If you want to write about writing without making it a memoir, you will come off as pretentious. Unless you are J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (who has done it pretty successfully), you cannot write about writing without coming off as pretentious. Especially if you constantly quote your own work when explaining how to write an awesome short story. Lame. But there were some great tips! Amazing advice on how to write dialogue, a mouth-watering comprehensive list of reference books all writers should have, and a whole chapter just on flash fiction...this is great stuff. But the pretension just blew me away. This guy thinks he's God's gift to fiction, even though his work is fair-to-middling, he has way too many nitpicky little rules that seem to be based more on his personal opinion of good fiction than what actually constitutes well-written prose. He thinks every writer should be reading the books he chooses for us. he likes to name-drop. You know, I'm a beginning writer, and I'm still learning...but he seems to shit on every writer who does not have the complete Shakespeare collection or who is not buddies with famous authors. I'm a fan of the advice...but I'm not digging the author of this one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Although a writer at any stage of development will find inspiration in this book—and at minimum an exercise or two to jump start your process—it really is focused on providing guidance and encouragement to the new writer, especially those that have always wanted to write but haven't yet made the commitment. At first I was skeptical because the book covers the same ground as so many other "how to write" books (do we really need another one?), but Dufresne's more personal voice—as opposed to Gardn Although a writer at any stage of development will find inspiration in this book—and at minimum an exercise or two to jump start your process—it really is focused on providing guidance and encouragement to the new writer, especially those that have always wanted to write but haven't yet made the commitment. At first I was skeptical because the book covers the same ground as so many other "how to write" books (do we really need another one?), but Dufresne's more personal voice—as opposed to Gardner's imperial tone—makes this a less daunting book for the new writer. Almost every page has a quotation about writing or creativity, so if you like quotations, the book might be worth owning for that collection alone. Did I mention the exercises? Probably hundreds of them. Dufresne has put in some real work on these. The majority are to jump start the writing process; how they get to be stories is up to you. The chapter on dialog is suberb; not necessarily breaking new ground, but it's a tightly organized set of do's and don'ts, and would be great to review as you are revising. The Lie That Tells A Truth has been around a few years, but if you are not familiar with it, take a look.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rand

    Required for a class I took when I was 22. I remember not thinking much of it at the time but as of now I don't think much of who I was at 22, so I can't really comment as to the text's efficacy as a pedagogical tool at all, aside from its few proscriptions re:wordiness that I continue to ignore. Required for a class I took when I was 22. I remember not thinking much of it at the time but as of now I don't think much of who I was at 22, so I can't really comment as to the text's efficacy as a pedagogical tool at all, aside from its few proscriptions re:wordiness that I continue to ignore.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sian Griffiths

    This book is full of good tips for the new and intermediate writer. I love the quotations sprinkled throughout. He pulls them from an astonishing array of sources and writers, and they were each inspiring and thought-provoking. I can't imagine how long it took them to collect them all. DuFresne is an excellent cheerleader for those wanting to lead the writing life. He reminds his reader of the time and absolute, unflagging dedication it requires, but also why this effort is so deeply rewarding. This book is full of good tips for the new and intermediate writer. I love the quotations sprinkled throughout. He pulls them from an astonishing array of sources and writers, and they were each inspiring and thought-provoking. I can't imagine how long it took them to collect them all. DuFresne is an excellent cheerleader for those wanting to lead the writing life. He reminds his reader of the time and absolute, unflagging dedication it requires, but also why this effort is so deeply rewarding. This is definitely DuFresne's book though--heavily grounded in his point of view and his wealth of experience. Readers looking for a more objective craft text may be put off by this, but I imagine others will love it for exactly the same reason. He's at your side to encourage and give advice. There's more heart here than in your average craft book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Kendall

    The best book on writing that I've ever read (and I've read a lot!). Dufresne's a genius, his topics make sense; they take you by the hand and walk you through your tangle of pages to make sense out of them. Just finished reading it for the 3rd time, and if I ever finish the book I'm writing it will be due to him. The best book on writing that I've ever read (and I've read a lot!). Dufresne's a genius, his topics make sense; they take you by the hand and walk you through your tangle of pages to make sense out of them. Just finished reading it for the 3rd time, and if I ever finish the book I'm writing it will be due to him.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    I read a LOT of books on writing! but write very little. this is one of the better ones

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darcy Conroy

    Dufresne's The Lie That Tells a Truth is an excellent guide to the craft, I enjoyed the philosophy, but I would suggest that it is more for those who are theory novices (as distinct from writing novices) because it leaned toward 'dumbing down' and explained a little too much, at times. One thing that may also attract those who read to be taught how to be a writer (as against writers reading for the insights shared by another) is that he gives almost equal time to how to get ideas as he does to h Dufresne's The Lie That Tells a Truth is an excellent guide to the craft, I enjoyed the philosophy, but I would suggest that it is more for those who are theory novices (as distinct from writing novices) because it leaned toward 'dumbing down' and explained a little too much, at times. One thing that may also attract those who read to be taught how to be a writer (as against writers reading for the insights shared by another) is that he gives almost equal time to how to get ideas as he does to how to execute them. I found these 'idea parts' surprising and frustrating because I just don't think they have a place in a text aimed at writers. I know lots of people say they want to write but have no ideas and so would love a book full of how to get ideas but, to me, this is snake oil salesman stuff. When I hear someone who claims to want to write ask 'where do you get ideas?' I'm afraid my response is "Frankly, if you don't know then count yourself lucky not to be haunted by them and stick to the joy of reading!" If you have no ideas, then you have nothing you're compelled to express and, I think Dufresne would agree, no piece of writing - or art - is worth anything if the writer has nothing to say. If I could give an extra half star for his including the correction of "try and" to "try to" in his "Small Craft Warnings" chapter at the end of the book, I would!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eliza T. Williamson

    This book came at the right time for me as a writer. I was feeling whiny, downtrodden, stuck and ineffective--Dufresne's kick in the ass style coupled with great exercises and phenomenal discussion on the process of writing (in all its intricacies) has been invaluable. I have read the book cover to cover and am twenty pages into my 2nd read...it is that good. This book came at the right time for me as a writer. I was feeling whiny, downtrodden, stuck and ineffective--Dufresne's kick in the ass style coupled with great exercises and phenomenal discussion on the process of writing (in all its intricacies) has been invaluable. I have read the book cover to cover and am twenty pages into my 2nd read...it is that good.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This another book that I recommend often to aspiring writers. There's some real wisdom here about the craft. And if you ever get a chance to hear John Dufresne talk, don't miss it. He's a great speaker. This another book that I recommend often to aspiring writers. There's some real wisdom here about the craft. And if you ever get a chance to hear John Dufresne talk, don't miss it. He's a great speaker.

  10. 4 out of 5

    X 937

    This is book which ascribes to the point of view that you can work your way into becoming a writer. It hits you with a constant drubbing of homework assignments that are supposed to give you practice in the minutia of literary fiction. If you are a literary fiction buff, and you are lacking in ideas of your own to write, this book might be of some use to you. The Lie That Tells a Truth seems to be directed mainly at people who don't really have anything of interest to write about. The idea is to This is book which ascribes to the point of view that you can work your way into becoming a writer. It hits you with a constant drubbing of homework assignments that are supposed to give you practice in the minutia of literary fiction. If you are a literary fiction buff, and you are lacking in ideas of your own to write, this book might be of some use to you. The Lie That Tells a Truth seems to be directed mainly at people who don't really have anything of interest to write about. The idea is to force you to examine the mundane events of your life story and turn them into fiction. My counterpoint is this: if you don't have anything to write about, you are not a writer and may never become one. This book is not going to change that. If I had followed this book to its conclusion, I would probably have given up writing and taken on some other pastime like amateur plumbing or beetle husbandry -- anything to avoid the drudgery of depicting countless "earthy" scenes from my past in fiction form. I want to write sci-fi. There are no spaceships or galactic overlords in my past. So, I shelved this book and have been writing out my story ideas ever since. I've found the joy or writing again, and I'm not looking back. I made up my own method for improving my writing skills. I'm not published yet (unless you count technical manuals, which I don't). So haters, feel free to hate. However, my writing has certainly improved by leaps and bounds: 1) Read A LOT of literary fiction; try to go down the list of universally-accepted masterworks. Find all the heavyweights and break their books down line by line. If you encounter a word you don't understand, look it up! You'll need to get used to using a dictionary; this'll be a long haul. 2) After a few years or reading hardcore literary fiction, you will have the language of the great writers floating around in your head. Now, go back to your favorite chapters over the last few years and rewrite them in your own words. This practice helps you understand the pacing that great writers employ. You need to get a feel for when to use colorful language and when to focus on the matter at hand. Do this at least once a month. Show these exercises to no-one. You don't want to be accused of plagiarism! 3) Keep revisiting grammar. I have hundreds of grammar flashcards, and I do them every day. Once a month, I take the grammar tests out of the backs of my grammar textbooks. When I have taken them all, I buy a new text. You need to have excellent grammar or nobody will read more than a paragraph of your work. My grammar sucks, so I still have a way to go. But, I am improving! 4) Make a list of all the cool story ideas you have come up with over the years. Pick the ones you are most enthusiastic about and start outlining them. As you outline your stories, create character files listing the idiosyncrasies and biographical details of each of your characters (as you would in D&D). You need to know how they will react to given situations beforehand. This is how you create believable characters. Don't waste any time on stories and characters that bore you. Only write down your most dynamite ideas. How can you expect a stranger to finish a story that you yourself consider boring? 5) Once you have outlined your story and characters, start writing out scenes. Choose a narrative style and stick with it. Don't tell your readers what to think, show them human behavior that naturally elicits the response you are looking for. Bad writers tell you about the characters in the book. Good writers show you what stuff each character is made of. And, that's pretty much it. Learn how the masters write. Copy their work as practice, but never as plagiary. Then, write what you are most enthusiastic about. Only those ideas that blow YOUR mind are fit to foist upon strangers. And, if you don't have any mind-blowing ideas, maybe you're not a writer. Or, maybe you are a literary-fiction writer; in which case, you will have such boring tastes that rewriting the quotidian events of your past will be inspiration enough for you. Hey, maybe you'll even get a book published; just don't expect anyone else to read it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    William Adams

    I met the author at a writing conference and decided to buy his book. It covers the basics that beginning writers need to know, such as how to make time in your day for writing, what to write about, how to develop characters, how to create a plot. All the bases are touched. Anyone starting out on the journey of writing fiction would be well-served. While covering the basics, Dufresne keeps the tone light and conversational. I think it is important to be encouraging and positive with beginners, b I met the author at a writing conference and decided to buy his book. It covers the basics that beginning writers need to know, such as how to make time in your day for writing, what to write about, how to develop characters, how to create a plot. All the bases are touched. Anyone starting out on the journey of writing fiction would be well-served. While covering the basics, Dufresne keeps the tone light and conversational. I think it is important to be encouraging and positive with beginners, because the task of writing is severely daunting. To this end, every page of the book includes one or two epigrams, pithy quotes from writers and artists of all kinds, on aspects of writing and the creative life. “The purpose of art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.” – Glenn Gould. “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett. “Whenever possible tell the whole story of the novel in the first sentence.” – John Irving. These quotations are of course merely opinions, many, such as Irving’s, of dubious validity, others too obscure to understand, but they’re fun, and that’s the point. Interestingly, Dufresne neglected to include an apposite quote from Albert Camus: “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Each chapter concludes with writing exercises, some of them interesting, most of them practical, which the author probably draws from his years of teaching writing. For example, “Read some opening scenes from books that you admire and try to figure out what is working there.” On the downside, the author’s example texts go on far too long, and often do not even illustrate the point he was discussing. This is especially true when he cites his own writings, which is quite often. The citations are often so unfocused that they seem like mere filler, if not advertisements for his own published works. Likewise, in the exercises, he is not content to explain the assignment, but fills up paragraphs and pages suggesting how the assignment might be executed. For example, for the assignment just mentioned about reading opening scenes, he goes on at length to suggest these questions: “What’s the date? Weather? Time? What are the sounds, the smells, the textures, the tastes, if any? What is your character thinking about? How does she feel? Mood? Who are the people in the scene?” And on and on and on, until you either have to scream or turn the page. Beginning writers are beginners, but they are not mentally incapacitated. Despite these shortcomings, I still think that for a naive beginning writer of fiction, especially a younger one, this book will be harmless, yet informative and encouraging.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Vail

    I was exposed to "The Life That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction" in my Fiction Writing Workshop course. While some of the writing does flirt with being pretentious, the resources found within are invaluable. I have found Dufresne's work to have one of the most useful chapters on dialogue that I have come across so far. His descriptions in other chapters had me laughing out loud several times, and the writing exercise found within can challenge an open writer to push outside of their co I was exposed to "The Life That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction" in my Fiction Writing Workshop course. While some of the writing does flirt with being pretentious, the resources found within are invaluable. I have found Dufresne's work to have one of the most useful chapters on dialogue that I have come across so far. His descriptions in other chapters had me laughing out loud several times, and the writing exercise found within can challenge an open writer to push outside of their comfort zone to find new areas of interest or new writing styles they would never have explored on their own. Dufresne creates an approach to writing that encourages the newbie and challenges the veteran. This book is a powerful, thought-provoking tool for any writer willing to open themselves up to a different perspective on what it takes to put your words onto paper.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cyliena

    This was an assigned text for a BA in English & Creative Writing class. Was this memoir? In all seriousness, Dufresne talks about himself far too much in this book. However, it has some good exercises and goes over important topics for new writers. I didn't get much value out of it (but that is on the professor, who shouldn't have assigned it to a 300-level workshop class), but I imagine that those struggling to understand the building blocks such as point of view, dialogue, and plot would benefit This was an assigned text for a BA in English & Creative Writing class. Was this memoir? In all seriousness, Dufresne talks about himself far too much in this book. However, it has some good exercises and goes over important topics for new writers. I didn't get much value out of it (but that is on the professor, who shouldn't have assigned it to a 300-level workshop class), but I imagine that those struggling to understand the building blocks such as point of view, dialogue, and plot would benefit from this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leda Frost

    Dufresne is absolutely about what he believes works and what doesn't. The examples he uses can get overly long, but they do help to illustrate his point(s). Out of all the writerly self-help books I've read in my time, I found his stance refreshing. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy. He doesn't want to hold your hand and wax poetic about creativity. He wants you to sit your ass in the chair and get it down. I'm giving it 3 instead of 4 stars because that attitude could get overwhelming at times. Dufresne is absolutely about what he believes works and what doesn't. The examples he uses can get overly long, but they do help to illustrate his point(s). Out of all the writerly self-help books I've read in my time, I found his stance refreshing. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy. He doesn't want to hold your hand and wax poetic about creativity. He wants you to sit your ass in the chair and get it down. I'm giving it 3 instead of 4 stars because that attitude could get overwhelming at times.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Leslie

    Brilliant guide to writing fiction chock-full with insight as well as with helpful exercises. I have used this guide in my creative writing classes many times and Dufresne's wisdom shines through every time. One of the best books for beginning fiction writers out there. Brilliant guide to writing fiction chock-full with insight as well as with helpful exercises. I have used this guide in my creative writing classes many times and Dufresne's wisdom shines through every time. One of the best books for beginning fiction writers out there.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

    Dufresne's book is one of the best I've read on how to improve your writing. The exercises in the book coupled with Dufresne's advice and guidance are great tools to help fiction writers improve their craft. Dufresne's book is one of the best I've read on how to improve your writing. The exercises in the book coupled with Dufresne's advice and guidance are great tools to help fiction writers improve their craft.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I was supposed to read this for class. It was a pretty good book. What kills me is how the writer's use their own writing-which was mediocre-as examples. But I loved the end of the book-no adverbs! I was supposed to read this for class. It was a pretty good book. What kills me is how the writer's use their own writing-which was mediocre-as examples. But I loved the end of the book-no adverbs!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine Marie Sheppard

    Love love love this book, it is so easy to follow and a good point of reference when your stuck. I personally struggle with subtext within my dialogue but this book is my baby. You can read it 20x and every time you improve your writing some place else totally recommend for budding authors!

  19. 5 out of 5

    A.

    Way too much talking about himself; I didn't get through that to the actual writing commentary. Also, seemed to be more about generatibg ideas than revision, which is more what I am looking for. Way too much talking about himself; I didn't get through that to the actual writing commentary. Also, seemed to be more about generatibg ideas than revision, which is more what I am looking for.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Johannus Steger

    I would recommend this book (and I do, I even bought someone a copy) to every writer I know.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alec Hawkins

    The advice is on point and the supplemental quotes on writing are the best you’ll ever find in one place. Easily in the top three of best books on writing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mindy Winograd

    Prepare for a lot of bible references. Oh, and the advice is preachy. Can’t believe this was required reading at a university level.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Myers

    Read for class. Thought it was a good motivation and learned something in almost every chapter, even if it was small. Good exercises for writers of every level.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sadia

    Witty and practical.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Zecker

    I have been reading a variety of creative writing manuals over the past few months to gear up for my workshopping, writing, teaching, and learning that I will be doing in my new MFA program. All of the books I have read have been mostly repetitive, while all offered interesting and powerful glimmers into one aspect of creative writing that really turned me on and opened my eyes (while I felt the other lessons provided were good, but mostly repeated a great deal of information I was already very I have been reading a variety of creative writing manuals over the past few months to gear up for my workshopping, writing, teaching, and learning that I will be doing in my new MFA program. All of the books I have read have been mostly repetitive, while all offered interesting and powerful glimmers into one aspect of creative writing that really turned me on and opened my eyes (while I felt the other lessons provided were good, but mostly repeated a great deal of information I was already very familiar with). This review will focus on what I felt was specifically unique about this book in particular and may leave out observations about the entirety of the workshop. The first thing that I really enjoyed about this book was that Dufresne is a Massachusetts native, and at many points in his book told anecdotes and revisited stories that he had written that all mention places, businesses, neighborhoods, and events that I am intimately familiar with. It was a nice dimension to the book that personalized the experience for me. Like many books in this genre, each chapter focused on a specific element of the process. His chapters would explore some personal approaches to the focus, then would explore how the writer should think about it, and then would go on to discuss how to execute it and present prompts. The chapters were mainly explored in a narrative format, which was somewhat of a turnoff for a technical manual, but then he prompts he finished each chapter with were engaging and effective. The chapter I thought he was most specific and effective with was the chapter on dialogue, presenting the material and his narrative, but then literally following it up with a specific list of takeaways –something I wish the book had a great deal more of, but saved until the end and only appeared in this one chapter. An anecdotal narrative style works, but just as in a classroom I think that the core ideas need to be presented directly. Furthermore, I wish that all of the prompts in the workshop could have been condensed somehow (and maybe even the lessons themselves in this list format) and rid of the extraneous information and presented in an appendix. A great writing manual that with a few tweaks would have really knocked me out of the park.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fred Gorrell

    Have you ever had someone sit down with you or stand at your side and show you how to do something? There can be a very pleasant, casual intimacy involved when one person shows another how to put a bike chain right, or how to "fold" an egg, or how to put something together. This book about how to write fiction creates that sense of spiritual proximity and sharing, even when read as an "ebook" without having actually met the author. His tone and voice make it feel like his advice is being offered Have you ever had someone sit down with you or stand at your side and show you how to do something? There can be a very pleasant, casual intimacy involved when one person shows another how to put a bike chain right, or how to "fold" an egg, or how to put something together. This book about how to write fiction creates that sense of spiritual proximity and sharing, even when read as an "ebook" without having actually met the author. His tone and voice make it feel like his advice is being offered over coffee at a kitchen table, as you both consider a piece of writing. Many books about writing focus on the personal sacrifice in finding time to right, the discipline essential to success, and other exhortations about the personal character and habits of effective writers. Some books focus on technical aspects of the process, and reading them can feel like studying physics to understand how to pitch a baseball: the theory is good but hard to connect to moving your arm and releasing the ball. Other books consider the metaphysical qualities of the craft. Unlike all of these, The Lie That Tells a Truth... steers consistently to a practical discussion of how to get the writing done and make it work well. In particular, the chapter on plot development through a series of reversals and recognitions is very useful as it explains how to build a continuum of scenes to pair character development with progress in the plot. The author's perspective on the process of writing and revision disarms a very challenging hurdle to actually making progress with writing. There is also a great chapter on point of view. The book is a comprehensive discussion of many different aspects of fiction writing; while these three topics were of particular interest to me, other readers with different writing challenges may find other ideas useful. The most important message in the book is one which can never be over-emphasized: all of the craft and beauty of your words will matter for little in fiction if the characters and their challenges aren't compelling.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debby DeRosa

    In The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne rants, inspires, and advises about the writing life. The book is divided into three sections: “The Process,” which describes how to make yourself write; “The Product,” which discusses issues such as plot, character, dialogue, and point of view that pertain to the craft of writing; and “Other Matters,” which talks about reading as a writer and the importance of good grammar. Together, these sections create a thorough guide for writers of how to get wor In The Lie That Tells a Truth, John Dufresne rants, inspires, and advises about the writing life. The book is divided into three sections: “The Process,” which describes how to make yourself write; “The Product,” which discusses issues such as plot, character, dialogue, and point of view that pertain to the craft of writing; and “Other Matters,” which talks about reading as a writer and the importance of good grammar. Together, these sections create a thorough guide for writers of how to get words on the page and how to correct them once they’re there. I think the major weakness of the book is the fact that Dufresne talks about himself and his writing a little too much. He comes across as conceited. However, I will forgive him this flaw because he explains the writing process with such clarity. Often, when I read a compelling piece of fiction, I wonder, “How did this person think of this? Where did she get all these details?” Now, I know. To write a compelling piece rich with details and life, I need to write many pages that won’t make their way into my story. Dufresne describes how to do this, and he makes it as simple as driving directions: sit down, be quiet, wait, watch your characters, and write. He uses a tone that inspires you to do it now. On top of this, he gives concrete advice about things like dialogue, revision, or and putting specific details in your stories. Therefore, Dufresne addresses many of the questions I have had about writing, and it’s nice to find such well-rounded advice in one place. This book is useful for a writer at any stage, so I will recommend it to others. Also, I plan to keep it and return to it as I need inspiration and ideas.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    The Lie That Tells a Truth is a writer's secret weapon, which might be why you haven't heard of it. It's no good having a brilliant book about writing if everybody knows about it; then the bar gets raised and you've got no advantage. So when I recommend this to you, it's with the understanding that my reviews slumber in obscurity here, and that you, dear reader, will have the good taste not to tell anybody else. John Dufresne is a writing teacher in Florida. He's written enough novels and stories The Lie That Tells a Truth is a writer's secret weapon, which might be why you haven't heard of it. It's no good having a brilliant book about writing if everybody knows about it; then the bar gets raised and you've got no advantage. So when I recommend this to you, it's with the understanding that my reviews slumber in obscurity here, and that you, dear reader, will have the good taste not to tell anybody else. John Dufresne is a writing teacher in Florida. He's written enough novels and stories so you can read this book knowing he's not just delivering untried theories (I'm talking to you, Syd Field). His heart dwells with the short story, but his advice applies to anything. He's passionate about the craft, and he seems to have written down every insight on writing he's ever had. His exercises to master all the basic dilemmas of story, style, plot, character, technique, and all the rest of the bits of writing are useful, fresh, and inspiring. You can tell he's a teacher, and a good one. A lot of his methods are the kind of things -- almost games -- that writers will eventually figure out for themselves, but it's lovely to have them all written down in one place. And there are many things in this book I would never have thought of at all. In addition, the book is heavily interlarded with quotations from writers -- hundreds of 'em in little sidebars -- that will keep you coming back for the book long after you've internalized its lessons. I'd say this volume, Stephen King's On Writing, and a grammary like Eats, Shoots & Leaves or Elements of Style is about all you need by way of advice on writing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Browning

    John Dufresne’s The Lie That Tells a Truth is broken into three separate sections; “The Process” (3-115), which addresses writing habits and the writer’s life; “The Product” (119-264), a section tackling writing craft issues such as plotting, characterization, point of view and dialogue; and “Other Matters” (267-298), which discusses the importance of critical reading and also gives dozens of grammar, style and word-use tips for writers. In addition (and this is perhaps one of the things that en John Dufresne’s The Lie That Tells a Truth is broken into three separate sections; “The Process” (3-115), which addresses writing habits and the writer’s life; “The Product” (119-264), a section tackling writing craft issues such as plotting, characterization, point of view and dialogue; and “Other Matters” (267-298), which discusses the importance of critical reading and also gives dozens of grammar, style and word-use tips for writers. In addition (and this is perhaps one of the things that endears this text to me), there are at least a hundred writing exercises and prompts that apply to each topic Dufresne discusses. The text is also sprinkled liberally with encouraging, sometimes humorous, quotations from well-known writers. These writing-specific quotations alone are worth adding this book to your shelf. I feel fortunate to say that I’ve learned something from every writing craft book I have ever read, whether I have liked each text or not. Even so, this is the first book that has supportively and helpfully addressed so many of my writing problems—both craft and style issues—in one place. One inspiring, liberating place. This now-tabbed, dog-eared, underlined and annotated book has earned an important spot on my desk, within reach.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nazire

    I love this book. It isn't like other books on writing, formal, structured and just listing off things you should or should not do. But it is written well, reads like a story, filled with insight, examples and nitty gritty you don't get anywhere else and the writing prompts are great if you are having trouble getting pen to paper, giving you something to think about, getting you to think about stories. Though I have to say this book is more about how to be a writer than an outline of how to writ I love this book. It isn't like other books on writing, formal, structured and just listing off things you should or should not do. But it is written well, reads like a story, filled with insight, examples and nitty gritty you don't get anywhere else and the writing prompts are great if you are having trouble getting pen to paper, giving you something to think about, getting you to think about stories. Though I have to say this book is more about how to be a writer than an outline of how to write. They are obviously correlated and one feeds off the other. There are lots of book names dropped, which are usually great books themselves, so if you're looking for book recommendations, they're a great place to start. There is a lot of showing examples through his own or other published stories so it's pretty great, though it can be a little annoying at times and a little repetitive. Kick back and enjoy!

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