Wednesday, September 15, 2010


So, just to be clear: here is what Robert Graves said EXACTLY as he said it, and following it are the posts with names removed (though I know them) of the brave and articulate souls who approached the concept of trying to not only figure out what he meant by this poem, but how they could say what they thought in 140 characters or less. 

The Devil's Advice to Story-Tellers
Lest men suspect your tale to be untrue,
Keep probability - some say - in view.
But my advice to story-tellers is:
Weigh out no gross of probabilities,
Nor yet make diligent transcriptions of
Known instances of virtue, crime or love.
To forge a picture that will pass for true,
Do conscientiously what liars do -
Born liars, not the lesser sort that raid
The mouths of others for their stock-in-trade:
Assemble, first, all casual bits and scraps
That may shake down into a world perhaps;
People this world, by chance created so,
With random persons whom you do not know-
The teashop sort, or travellers in a train
Seen once, guessed idly at, not seen again;
Let the erratic course they steer surprise
Their own and your own and your readers' eyes;
Sigh then, or frown, but leave (as in despair)
Motive and end and moral in the air;
Nice contradiction between fact and fact
Will make the whole read human and exact.
               - Robert Graves


At 08 September, 2010 , Anonymous  said...
I believe the poem by Robert Graves says: To make your novel believable, apply behaviors, emotional and physical, you observe from society into your characters.  
At 12 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
The power of observation is the story-teller's greatest asset for creating believable characters, rather than relying on clichéd archetypes.  
At 12 September, 2010 , Anonymous 
Story tellers must lie elegantly about ordinary people in probable situations.  
At 13 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
Sprinkle your stories with bits of real life and people but don't let truth get in the way of good fiction.  
At 13 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
Observing the demeanour of strangers is essential to writing believable characters whose humanity is diminished by cookie-cutter lives.  
At 14 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
A believable character can live beyond the page and is made flesh by acknowledging the reality of human chaos and avoiding a polished finish.  
At 14 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
Human nature is contradictory, and believable characters must reflect as much, or else they become predictable, rather than probable.  
At 14 September, 2010 , Blogger said...
A believable character consists of the perfect ratio of fact to fiction, where fact is behaviour acutely observed and fiction is probabilities imagined.


At 21 September, 2010 , Anonymous Welwyn Wilton Katz said...

ANNOUNCEMENT: The competition, including James Bow, who entered late, was so strong that it was impossible to determine which was the best. I have a mild preference for one because it is so clear and honest, another for its concise precision, another because it's more on the button and no nonsense (though I wonder if the Devil is really like that...) and so on. And so I have to say that you each will be winning a book. Only one book per entrant, I'm sorry to say, except for the Grand Prize Winner which was submitted by Quenby Joanette for her prodigious efforts at a time when she was really far too busy to do this thing at all. Congratulations to all the entrants!.

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