The fundamental elements of a story’s structure are proportion and order. Managing proportion is the art of making some things big and other things little: of creating foreground and background; of making readers feel the relative importance of characters, events, ideas. Often this means upsetting normal expectations by finding a superficially trivial detail or moment that, on closer examination, resonates with meaning.
– Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction (2013), 40.
Lisa Hill said:
I’m going to try and remember this quotation next time I’m reading a biography…
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Nathan Hobby said:
Yes, for me it summed up a key achievement in great biographies.
Great quote, Nathan. Thanks for sharing it. It makes good sense but also creates a real challenge for the writer, eh?
Actually, now I think about it, it’s relevant to writing reviews too. Most books have so much in them to write about, that we have to choose what aspect is important to us and foreground that in our review.
If we are writing serious criticism I guess we have have to work out whether the author has made clear the “big” things, and how they’ve done that, but in a more personal review blog we can, in a way, just talk about what’s “big” to us. Sometimes they coalesce with what the author things, but I’m not sure they always do. Has any of this made sense?