The Passionate, Accurate Story



About fifteen years ago I read The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart’s Truth into Literature by Carol Bly


I am not by nature a fiction writer, but still, this book had a large impact upon me.

Here are some quotes from it:

“It is very difficult to teach navigation theory to someone who clings to the shore.”


“For a short-story writer, a story is the combination of what the writer supposed the story would likely be about — plus what actually turned up in the course of writing.”

“Your soul needs to be lonely so that its strangest elements can moil about, curl and growl and jump, fail and get triumphant, all inside you. Sociable people have the most trouble hearing their unconscious. They have trouble getting rid of clichés because clichés are sociable. “

Quoting from Thoughts on Literature, Law, and Life a blog by Teri Kanefield, who is quoting from Carol Bly:

“Carol Bly says first the writer must leave the donnee, which is French for “given.”  Leaping off the lily pad of the donnee is what divides fiction writers from journal-writers and autobiographers. Too often, a writer wants to “capture” some emotion or factual truth — but fiction, for Bly, “is not about capturing anything. A good story is never about what actually happened. It must at least partly be about humanity and our earth. What actually happened can be the gist, or the start-up, but the fiction writer cannot cling to what happened.”

“Carol Bly goes on to suggest practical advice for writers: Make a listing of your values. Learn to get past your own bitterness and cynicism by understanding that most conflicts are not between good and evil, but are more complex and subtle. Develop your powers of sympathy so you have less disdain for people in general.

At first blush, this seems to be good advice for people in general and writers in particular.”



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