In (Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before, Peter Turchi combines personal narrative and close reading of a wide range of stories and novels to reveal how writers create the fiction that matters to us. Building on his much-loved Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Turchi leads readers and writers to an understanding of how the intricate mechanics of storytelling—including shifts in characters’ authority, the subtle manipulation of images, careful attention to point of view, the strategic release of information, and even digressing from the (apparent) story—can create powerful effects.
Using examples from Dickens, Chekhov, and Salinger, and Twain to more contemporary writers including Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, E. L. Doctorow, Jenny Erpenbeck, Adam Johnson, Mohsin Hamid, Jai Chakrabarti, Yoko Ogawa, Richard Powers, Deborah Eisenberg, Olga Tokarczuk, Rachel Cusk, and Colson Whitehead, Turchi offers illuminating insights into the inner workings of fiction as well as practical advice for writers looking to explore their craft from a fresh angle beyond the fundamentals of character and setting, plot, and scene.
While these essays draw from decades of teaching undergraduate and graduate students, they also speak to writers working on their own. In “Out of the Workshop, into the Laboratory,” Turchi discusses how anyone can make the most of discussions of stories or novels in progress, and in “Reading Like a Writer” he provides guidelines for learning from writing you admire. Perhaps best of all, these essays by a writer the Houston Chronicle has called “one of the country’s foremost thinkers on the art of writing” are as entertaining as they are edifying, always reminding us of the power and pleasure of storytelling.