Tales for Awful People

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Apologies to John Gardner

The realistic writer may set out to conjure up the personality of his aunt creating for her, or copying from life, some story through which her character is revealed, and thus he reveals his strong feelings about his aunt; that is, he expresses himself. The fabulist–the writer of non-realistic yarns, tales or fables–may seem at first glance to be doing something quite different; but he is not. Dragons, like bankers and candy-store owners, must have firm and predictable characters. A talking tree, a talking refrigerator, a talking clock must speak in a way we learn to recognize, must influence events in ways we can identify as flowing from some definite motivation; and since character can come only from one of two places, books or life, the writer’s aunt is as likely to show up in a fable as in a realistic story. Thus the process by which one writes a fable, on one hand, or a realistic story, on the other, is not much different.

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