Novel Class, Week 3:
The Great Gatsby, Indeed

There was just one disappointment this week: We’ve already finished The Great Gatsby.

If we read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic every week, we would probably learn something new each time about novel writing, fiction writing, and the human spirit.

But in our one session dedicated to Gatsby, our small cohort of novelists-in-progress examined, among many aspects of fiction, the tight-as-a-drum plot, the most reliable narrator ever, and the combination of plain and poetic language which both creates the romance of Daisy and Gatsby’s world, then undercuts it.

Another fictional technique in his toolbag: Fitzgerald introduces images, ideas, minor characters at the beginning, then returns to them in the end, building upon the resonances he’s created for the reader. Daisy’s voice, for chapters her most beguiling trait, is described by Gatsby: “Her voice is full of money.” The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on a billboard that Nick Carraway sees on the train into Manhattan, a quirky detail to start, are transformed at the end into the eyes of god.

Everything in Gatsby seems accidental; for the author, nothing is. The mysterious muse may prompt a writer to describe an odd billboard in the early drafts of a book, but invention and close attention is what will get the writer to use that image to enhance the story. That’s writing.

Meantime, on our 40,000-word novels, which some within and a few outside Winchester are aiming to finish by Week 12, we are trudging away. Two members of the class were about 300 words short, but we are positive that they will make it up by next week. In our online participants, I’ve been given the right word counts by two people, one in England, one in America. Congrats!!!

1 comment:

TJS101 said...


As Carole said you could learn something new every week; character sketches, how to deal with travel, the description of physicical movement and expression and those seemingly innocuous details. A treasure trove of technique.

As far as I'm getting on, the struggle with chapter three continues. This is harder to write that anything that came before (but I am dreading chapter 8 - another story entirely) due to the connections with other characters and the foreshadowing that must proceed the second half of the book. At last calculation this thing will be 22 Chapters with prologue and will come out in first draft at over 132,000 words over 440 pages. What the hell am I doing to myself? There is a reason this monster hid under the bed for so long and I hid under the duvet avoiding it...

Off now to portray overpowering mothering madness for another 6 pages then I can be free! - Tim.