Telling Lies For Fun And Profit
Lawrence Block

Telling Lies For Fun And Profit
A manual for fiction writers.
Lawrence Block

Introduction, by Sue Grafton:

I tried an opening or two, but I couldn”t hit a vein. p. 9

I sat up, amazed to find that in the chapter called “Opening Remarks,” Lawrence Block had written about the very frustration I was experiencing with K Is For Killer. Furthermore, his advice about openings was right on the money. I set the book aside and went back to my word processor, looking at my problem with renewed interest and a tiny flicker of hope. I began to pick my way through the rubble, and suddenly I found myself in business again. p. 9

I made a point of reading Telling Lies For Fun And Profit before beginning each new book. p. 9

[Block] seemed amused by the question. “So what if someone else does well? That doesn”t affect me or my work. p. 10

[Block] too, has suffered resistance, bewilderment, occasional lapses in faith. He has begun and abandoned manuscripts, been blocked, given up all hope, has returned to half-finished books with puzzlement about why he broke off the writing, turning them into some of his most accomplished published works. p. 10


I read every letter I get, and I reply to most of them. I almost always reply to those accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. A word to the wise… p. 13


Chapter 1: Setting Your Sights

The cartoon showed a sullen eight-year-old boy facing an earnest principal. “It”s not enough to be a genius, Arnold,” the man was saying. “You have to be a genius at something.” I recall identifying very strongly with Arnold. I had known early on that I wanted to be a writer. But it seemed that it wasn”t enough merely to be a writer. You had to sit down and write something. p. 25

[I]t was ever so clear to me that I would in due course produce a Great Novel of my own. I”d go to college first, naturally, where I might get a somewhat clearer idea of what constituted a Great Novel. Then I”d emerge from college into the Real World. There I would Live (I wasn”t quite sure what Capital-L Living entailed, but I figured there would be a touch of squalor in there somewhere, along with generous dollops of booze and sex.) All this Living would ultimately constitute the Meaningful Experiences which I would eventually distill into any number of books. p. 26

If you can”t stand to read a particular type of story, you”re wasting your time trying to write it. p. 27

[O]ne of the things that makes a story writable, if you will, is when you read it and identify not only with the characters but with the writer. Here was someone writing and publishing well-written stories that I could respect and enjoy-and I could see myself doing what he had done. I felt it was something I could do and I saw it as eminently worth doing. p. 27

In the name of research, I promptly read every other lesbian novel I could lay my hands on. Then one morning the plot came to me, and I outlined it, and a few weeks later I sat down and wrote the thing in two weeks flat, finishing four days before my twentieth birthday. (This seemed highly significant at the time. I”ve no idea why.) It sold to Fawcett, the first publisher to see it, and I was a published novelist just like that. p. 29

Chapter 2: Studying The Market

Understand, please, that I did not learn any formulae. I don”t know that such a thing exists. What I did learn, in a manner I cannot entirely explain, is a sense of the possible variations that could be worked upon the crime story, a sense of what worked and what didn”t. p. 30

[T]here”s something else you can do that may increase the effectiveness of your reading. It”s simple enough. You outline what you”ve read. For example: Two brothers are on their way to commit a big-time robbery when they run low on gas in the middle of nowhere. The service-station operator keeps telling them their car needs additional work and they sense they”re being conned, yet they don”t want to take chances. They let the man make more repairs than they have cash to pay for, finally robbing the station at the end because there”s no other way out. p. 31

[T]he simple act of stripping the stories to the bones will give you an intuitive understanding of what holds them together that you could not readily obtain just by reading them. p. 31

Outlines are an even more effective tool in learning how longer fiction works. When you take an outline you have read and reduce it to a chapter-by-chapter summary of its plot, you are in effect reversing the process the author followed in writing the book in the first place. Although they”re often easier to write, novels are generally more difficult to grasp than short stories. So much more happens in them that it”s harder to see their structure. Stripped down to outline form, the novel is like a forest in winter; with all their branches bare, the individual trees become visible where once the eyes saw only a mass of green leaves. p. 32

Chapter 3: Decisions, Decisions

I myself am pretty much of an intuitive writer. I try to write the sort of book I would want to read if I hadn”t happened to have written it myself. The more I write to please myself, the more likelihood there is that I”ll please other people in the process. But when I deliberately set out to please other readers, I usually turn out an inferior book. So I”d advise you to write the book your own way. Give it your best shot and then when you”ve finished worry about finding somebody who likes it enough to publish it. p. 33

Chapter 4: Novel Approaches

I think it was Theodore Sturgeon who argued that if the writer has no idea what”s going to happen next, the reader certainly won”t know what”s going to happen next. p. 40

I think what keeps a lot of us from attempting a novel is simple fear. Fear that we”ll give up and leave the book uncompleted, or the greater fear that we”ll complete it and have produced something unpublishable. I don”t think these fears are justifiable even when they prove true. So what if a novel is unsalable? For heaven”s sake, the great majority of them are, and why on earth should they be otherwise? In every other trade I”ve ever heard of it”s taken for granted that one will put in a lot of work before attaining a level of professionalism. Why should we expect our writing to be instantly publishable? p. 40

Chapter 5: Nothing Short Of A Novel

I put in a good day”s work and wound up knocking out fourteen pages. p. 43

Whenever I project, whenever I start envisioning the novel as a whole, I”m paralyzed with terror. p. 44

I suspect the business of writing a novel becomes less a source of anxiety and more of pleasure if we learn to concern ourselves more with the writing process and less with the presumptive end product. The writer who does each day”s work as it comes along, enjoying it as activity and not merely enduring it as a means to an end, is going to have a better time of things. p. 45

And you may have read Faulkner”s comment that ever short-story writer is a failed poet, and every novelist a failed short-story writer. p. 45

Chapter 6: Sunday Writers

Those of us who are driven to produce great quantities of manuscript don”t necessarily get any real pleasure out of the act; it”s just that we feel worse when we don”t write. It”s not the carrot but the stick that gets most of us moving. p. 48

When I”m off my form, the garbage I”ve written just sits there on the page and thumbs its nose at me. And when it gets into print that way, it”s there for all the world to see forever. p. 48

Chapter 7: “Dear Joy”

The specific facts learned in a classroom , the content of the required reading, rarely lingers in the mind too long after graduation. But the stimulation of intellectual interchange with an exciting and exceptional mind is something which will be with you forever. p. 51

Try to read your classmates” efforts in manuscript. Seeing beats hearing when it comes to teaching yourself how prose and dialogue work on the page. p. 51

Chapter 8: How To Read Like A Writer

The narrator of Toby Stein”s All The Time There Is confides that she vowed on turning thirty-five never to finish a book merely because she had started it, and I submit that that”s a good vow to make and a reasonable time in life to make it. p. 55

Any number of bestsellers with considerable popular appeal leave me colder than an editor”s smile. They may tell a good story, but if I can”t get past the writing I can”t enjoy the story. p. 55

It seems to me that every time I return to John O”Hara and Somerset Maugham I discover new evidence of their enormous craft. p. 57

I”m more critical and detached when I read a manuscript than when I read galleys, more so too with galleys than with a bound book. The closer I am to what come out of the writer”s typewriter, the more conscious I am that I”m reading a person”s work rather than something that came down from the mountaintop carved in stone tablets. p. 57

Chapter 9: Rolling With The Punches

[O]ne point I can”t emphasize too strongly is the importance of being absolutely relentless about submissions. Once you”ve got a story to the point where you think it”s worth submitting, you must submit it and submit it until someone somewhere breaks down and buys it. p. 58

[Y]ou put it in the mail, and you repeat this process ad infinitum until the damn thing sells. Over and over. Again and again. Relentlessly. p. 59

All it means is that a particular editor didn”t want to buy a particular story on a particular day. p. 59

[H]e”s in the market for twelve or fifteen stories annually, and how many fiction submissions per year do you suppose he receives? Four thousand. p. 59

Establish a hard and fast rule to get a manuscript back in the mail within twenty four hours of its receipt. Better yet, send it out immediately-make it the first order of business to get that script off your desk and back in the mail. p. 60

One reason not to keep it around is you might read it, and that”s a bad idea. You”ve already read it enough. The addition of a rejection slip isn”t going to heighten your enthusiasm. So don”t read it. Don”t even keep it around long enough to tempt yourself. p. 60

I”d recommend keeping it constantly at market for a minimum of a year. p. 60

There are some things you can do, however, to minimize the pain. First of all, you can keep involved in the constant production of new work. By focusing your concentration upon the work itself and making the marketing process as mechanical as possible, you can shrug off rejection more easily. This leads to the second method for reducing pain. Keep as many things in the mail as possible. p. 61

Until then, just sum up the editor”s ancestry and personal habits in a few terse sentences-and get your manuscript back in the mail. p. 62

Chapter 10: Bic, Scripto, Parker And Cross

[W]e can examine some of the reasons why a pen name can be useful: the author”s own name is unsuitable; the author has a specific reason to avoid recognition; the author is writing different types of books; the author is too prolific; the author wants to look like an expert; or, the author is not proud of what he has written. p. 63-65

I got a kick out of the element of deception that is inherent in pseudonymous writing. Pen names provided me with a vehicle for escaping the prison of self. The lure of false identity always appealed to me, and there was a time when I traveled around the country under a pen name, acting out in a rather bizarre fashion. p. 65

Pen names hurt me professionally in two ways that I can thing of. They diluted my efforts and thus kept me from building a following as quickly as I might have, and they allowed me to spend more time writing recognizably inferior work than I might otherwise have done. p. 66

Chapter 11: Writing With Two Heads

These collaborations could hardly have been simpler. There was no prior discussion of plot, no careful development of outline. One of us sat down and wrote a first chapter and gave it to the other, who wrote a second chapter and gave it back. The book loped along in this fashion until ten chapters had been written and it had come, as things do, to an end. p. 69

It was all great fun. Don and I tended to leave one another with impossible cliff-hangers, killing off one another”s chief characters at will. Hal and I devised a La Ronde form that made sex-novel collaboration almost effortless-i.e., the view point character in the first chapter had, uh, a carnal connection with someone, who went on to become the viewpoint character in the second chapter, wherein he or she got it on with the person destined to star in Chapter 3. And so on. p. 69

These collaborative experiments led in due course to the ultimate reductio ad absurdum, the Great Sex Novel Poker Game. This ill-advised venture consisted of half a dozen of us, all writers of this sort of trash and all fond at the time of nightlong poker sessions. Operating on the premised that any of us could produce a chapter in an hour or so, we met for a night of poker during which five of us sat around the table while one of us at a time went upstairs and wrote fifteen or twenty pages of The Book. But the time the night was done-or the following day, or whatever-we would each have contributed two chapter, the book would be finished, and a division of spoils would make us all winners, even those of us who had proved unlucky at cards. p. 69

Chapter 12: It takes More Than Talent

All over America there are… writers blessed with a sufficiency of talent but born, as Thomas G. would put it, to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the desert air. p. 72

It seems to me that will is enormously important. p. 73

In order to get into this business and in order to stay in it, you generally have to desire it with a passion bordering on desperation. p. 73

The old man shook his head again. “You don”t understand,” he said. “If you had had the fire, you would have paid no attention to me.” p. 74

I think it might be more accurate to say that they have a very strong desire to write a particular book, but no real desire to become a writer per se. Having written that book, they have slaked their hunger. p. 75

And some of us go on writing. p. 75

I have never been able to shake the perception of myself as a writer. It has kept me chained to this bloody desk for more years than I care to number, and it has made it impossible for me seriously to entertain the idea of doing anything else for long. p. 75

At first glance, the story”s point seems obvious enough. My friend had the will to succeed, the drive to keep going in the face of discouragement and rejection. He had, too, a perception of himself as a writer that refused to fade. In addition, he had a single-mindedness of purpose that enabled him to take chances. Quitting his job on the basis of a few day”s production was probably ill-advised, and I certainly would not recommend it to anyone in a similar situation, but perhaps it was essential for him. p. 77

[H]e deliberately sought out a subsistence job, undemanding part-time work that let him pay the rent while he went on writing. Again, he was taking a chance instead of playing it safe. p. 77

Quite simply, you have to like the work. By this I mean that the physical act of sitting at a typewriter has to be enjoyable in and of itself. Most writers hate the process, to one extent or another, and everybody hates it now and then. (This is an anomaly of writing and an interesting one at that. Most painters I know enjoy the act of painting, and almost ever musician I”ve known loves to play so much that he goes on doing it after his day”s work is done. But writers often hate writing.) p. 79

What a writer must enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate, is the utterly solitary nature of the work. When all is said and done, writing is a matter of sitting alone at a desk, staring more often than not at a blank wall, and turning thoughts into words and putting words on paper. p. 79

“People who spend the most meaningful hours of their lives in the exclusive company of imaginary people are apt to be a little strange.” And that”s the final requisite of the writer”s temperament. We”re every last one of us a little strange, a wee bit different. p. 80


Chapter 13: Writer”s Hours

Unless I can actually see a manuscript of mine getting further from the beginning and closer to the end because of what I”m doing, I”m not entirely capable of regarding the task I”m performing as work. p. 84

I don”t structure my work in terms of hours, finding it more useful to aim at producing a certain amount of work, usually somewhere between five and ten pages depending on the sort of material I”m working on, the deadline I”m facing and the phases of the moon. p. 85

If I”m not done in three hours, I generally call it a day anyway, though I”m by no means delighted about it. p. 85

I”ve found a couple of things I can do to make my writing life as guilt-free as possible, and I pass them on for whatever they”re worth. First, I make writing the first thing I do. Second, I try to work seven days a week. Third, I save routine work for later. And finally I allow myself to make occasional use of that old reliable copout – i.e., that writers are really working twenty-four hours a day. p. 86

Chapter 14: The Carrot And The Stick

To continue the analogy, a novelist, like a marathon runner, receives praise simply for having completed his task irrespective of how well he”s performed it. p. 88

I frequently look at other more industrious writers and castigate myself for my dilatory nature. p. 89

Give writing top priority. Make it the first thing you do. Give it priority, not letting yourself be sidetracked until the day”s writing is done. p. 89

Set goals for yourself. I work mornings, generally putting in two or three hours a day; when I work more than three hours my concentration flags and the work suffers. More often than not, the goal I set for myself is five pages a day [In three hours! JH]. p. 89

If I don”t reach my five-page goal within three hours, I may stay at the typewriter a little longer and see if I can”t fulfill my quota. I”m not absolutely compulsive about this, but I know I”ll feel better during the rest of the day if I get my pages written, and I do so when possible. p. 89

I avoid the trap of raising the goal as I go along, like an assembly line speedup. The object”s not to test myself. It”s to get my work done. p. 90

Stay in the now. I can only get today”s work done today, so why waste energy? p. 90

Just get it written. p. 90

Don”t take it too seriously. p. 90

Chapter 15: Creative Procrastination

When does procrastination become other than creative? When it consists of avoiding work rather than postponing it, and when my alternative to working on Project A is not working at all. Since I”m inherently lazy, I force myself to work on Project B instead. p. 94

Chapter 16: Time Out

I”ve argued, too, that not only one”s productivity but the quality of one”s work is enhanced by this slow-and-steady modus operandi. When I work every day-or six days a wee, say-the book I”m working on stays very much in mind. I think about it during the day and let my subconscious work on it over at night. I don”t have a chance to lose my grasp on it. Why, then, don”t I start the teakettle going at seven, get to my desk by eight, and nail down the Pulitzer Prize? I suppose because things don”t always go as I would have them go. My best-laid plans, like those of other mice and men, gang aft agley. p. 96

I took a week off to give myself time to get out of the first character”s head and into the second”s. At the week”s end I hurled myself once more into the breach and wrote every morning for three days, and on the fourth day I got up and realized I could not go on. This realization has since become a way of life, repeated each morning with subtle variations. It would be nice if I were at least enjoying this non-writing time, but of course I”m not. I constantly beat myself up for it, accusing myself of self-indulgence and sloth, and that certainly doesn”t help. p. 97

I think the first step of getting through these dry periods is one of acceptance. p. 98

I think there are ways to avoid making a period of inactivity worse. Besides acceptance, I think it”s helpful to avoid letting everything else go to hell along with the writing. p. 98

Chapter 17: Do It Anyway

“Do it anyway,” I tell him. “Put your behind on the chair and your fingers on the keys and get the words onto the paper. They don”t have to be good words. They don”t have to be the right words. You don”t have to like them. You don”t have to enjoy writing them and you don”t have to be proud of having written them. You don”t even have to believe that the whole process is worth doing. Do it anyway.” p. 100

Sometimes persistence and perseverance don”t amount to much more than banging the old had against the wall. The immovable wall. There are time, though, when it is demonstrably more important to get something done than to get it done well. p. 100

It”s common procedure for most of us to set little deadlines, to plan to finish a particular story by a particular date. Empires will not fall if we fail to do so. More often than not, nobody but us will know. Of course that”s generally punishment enough. Most of us who manage to function productively as free lancers tend to be quite hard on ourselves, demanding rather more than a boss would dare to demand, and beating ourselves up whenever our grasp falls short of our reach. p. 101

When our deadlines are not arbitrary one of our own making, and when the time for flexibility has come and gone, then it”s time to Do It Anyway. p. 101

There have been times when I”ve thought a piece of writing was coming along very nicely, only to find out when I”d finished that there was something wrong, most often a lack of tension overall that had not been apparent page by page as I was writing it. More often though, it”s the other way around. Writing that seems unutterably labored while it”s coming out of the typewriter turns out to be perfectly adequate. p. 101

I have to discount my feelings about what I”m doing and just go on doing it. p. 102

All of this is generally translatable as “I-don”t-wanna-write-this-thing-cuz-I”m-scared-I”ll-screw-it-up.” p. 103

If I hadn”t been willing to Do It Anyway, to get the thing written no matter how much I hated writing it, there would have been no book and I would have learned none of the lessons the experience provided. And that, I submit, is in itself the most important of those lessons. p. 103

Chapter 18: F U CN RD THS

It is also possible to argue that sometimes a book or story will be better for having been written more rapidly. I think there is a definite gain in intensity, for one thing. If I write a book in a month, for instance, it”s likely to be all of a piece. p. 105

Fast writing helps keep a book from going stale. If a book seems to be taking forever in the writing, I”m likely to be bored by the process of writing it. p. 105

Such Men Are Dangerous, took eight or nine days and was similarly written in white heat; a lot of people consider it my strongest novel. p. 106

Don”t assume too much. Most professional writers tend to aim for a daily production quota, one or two or five or ten pages of copy a day. p. 106

Quit when you get tired. The work I do after a certain point is the work that might better be left undone. p. 106

Avoid chemical assistance. There are cunning little pills available which banish fatigue, stimulate the central nervous system and seem to sharpen creativity while extending performance. Sooner or later these magic pills rot your kidneys, calcify your liver, leach the calcium out of your bones and teeth and lead in the fullness of time to dependency, madness, degeneration of the nervous system and death. p. 108

Chapter 19: Washing Garbage

All a sloppy first draft teaches you is to be sloppy in your writing. p. 111

Often when I”m writing I”ll get an idea somewhere along the way that sends the plot off on a previously unanticipated turn. This will frequently necessitate some changes in the material I”ve already written – a scene changed around, a bit of plot business planted earlier, whatever. The natural impulse is to go ahead with the book or story until it”s finished, then backpedal and fix up the rough spot. You”ll make things considerably easier for yourself if you return to do this back-and-fill work as soon as possible, before going on to complete the manuscript. p. 111

There are a couple of reasons why this makes sense. First, you don”t have the prospect of ultimately going back and revising constantly nagging at your. Once you”ve done your work, you can feel good about the portion that”s written and devote your complete attention to what”s coming up next. Second, then changes you make in the early part of the script may spark additional developments later on. This kind of revision is like fence mending; the sooner you see to it, the less elaborate a job it winds up being in the long run. p. 111

You should get in the habit of looking at the preceding paragraph or two whenever something comes up that breaks your concentration. This will help keep you in the flow and avoid repeating words and phrases unwittingly. p. 112

Don”t go crazy striving to avoid the need for revision. Don”t be so intent on getting it right the first time that you never do get the first draft written. [There was a young writer who came to a workshop year after year asking people to read the same first three chapters of her fantasy novel that she had yet again rewritten in the previous 12 months. JH] Don”t back-and-fill so many times that the manuscript ceases to get longer and merely gets older. p. 113

Chapter 20: On Being Read

While I may claim to want criticism, and while I may indeed be grudgingly grateful for advice on how to improve something I”ve written, I no more want criticism than does a proud parent holding up an infant for one”s inspection. When I show you my child, the flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood, don”t tell me the little bleeder”s head”s too big. Tell me rather that he”s the most beautiful baby who ever drew breath, with the wisdom of Solomon shining in his unfocused eyes, and I”ll love you and treasure you as a sage. p. 115

Chapter 21: Burning The Raft At Both Ends

Like many people who wind up writing, I”ve always tended to be interested in a great many things. I”m given to intense if short-lived enthusiasms, taking up hobbies and areas of interest with a passion, reading everything I can get my hands on about them, pursuing them relentlessly for three months or so, then shelving them and moving on to something else. I used to regard this fickleness as a character defect, but have come instead to view it as a useful aspect of my personality in that it enabled me to learn a fair amount about a curious mix of subjects. p. 120

Stay out of ruts. Look where you”re going. Don”t stop learning. Hang out. p. 121

I can”t be certain that anything”s going to come along to broaden the base of my experience if I spend a few hours riding around in the squad car with my cop friend, or go sit on a bench in St. Vincent”s emergency room, or rub elbows with drug dealers and three-card-monte hustlers in Washington Square, or take in the scene at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. But I can be fairly sure nothing much is going to happen if I stay home and watch reruns of I Love Lucy. p. 122

Chapter 22: Creative Plagiarism

There is a line to be drawn between legitimate and illegitimate theft, between simple and creative plagiarism. The acid test, it seems to me, is whether the plagiarist contributes something significant of his own devising to what he has borrowed. Milton made essentially this distinction three centuries ago in Iconoclastes. “For such a kind of borrowing as this,” he wrote. “if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted Plariaré.” p. 124

When I watch a character behave stupidly, I find myself calculating what he should do, and what the effects of this proper behavior will be. Occasionally my solution to his problem is sufficiently different from the author”s, and seems to constitute a sufficient improvement, so that I”ll go ahead and write a story on my own. p. 125

Chapter 23: “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

Where does one get one”s ideas? I had a friend who told askers of this particular question that there was a magazine published twice a month called The Idea Book, or some such nonsense. “It”s loaded with excellent plot ideas,” he said. “I have a subscription, of course, and as soon as I get my copy I write in and select half a dozen ideas and get clearance on them, so that no other subscriber will go ahead and write them. They I just work up stories around those ideas and Bob”s your uncle.” An encouraging number of oafs bought this premise, and of course they all wanted to subscribe to the magazine. “You have to be a professional writer,” my friend said, dashing their hopes. “Have to be a member of Author”s League and have a dozen sales to your credit. But keep plugging away by all means.” p. 128

Bits of facts can fit together. p. 129

People give you ideas. p. 130

Writers get ideas the way oysters get pearls. p. 131

Ideas turn up on television. p. 131

Ideas come out of conversation. p. 133


Chapter 24: Opening Remarks

The function of the opening is: getting the story moving (p. 138); setting the tone (p. 139) or establishing the problem (p. 140).

Chapter 25: First Things Second

Don”t begin at the beginning. p. 142

But whether your novel ought to begin at the beginning or not, just how and where it does begin is vitally important. All article writers know the importance of getting the lead paragraph absolutely right, and short-story writers know that a lead is every bit as important in fiction. (I think it”s more important: a reader may stay with an article because the subject matter”s interesting to him, but a weak lead will make him skip a short story nine times out of ten. p. 145

Well, your first chapter is the lead paragraph of your novel. Mickey Spillane has said more than once that the first chapter sells the book and the last chapter sells the next book. I wouldn”t dream of arguing with that. p. 145

A novel, as we”ve all heard far too often, ought to have a beginning, and a middle and an ending. No question about it. But not necessarily in that order. p. 145

Chapter 26: Spring Forward, Fall Back

It might be more useful to point out that a story has two beginnings, it”s beginning on the first page and its chronological beginning. Sometimes they coincide. Sometimes the do not. p. 147

When I teach magazine article writing, I always say, “Start in the middle and end at the beginning.” It”s rigid, it”s handcuffs; it also works. Start full steam with a topic, get the reader involved and interested; then back track, fill in, move through the research, the topic, build, build, build… then, when you get to the end, look back at what you suggested in the beginning and round it out. p. 147

The trick of starting in the middle, however, is extremely useful in fiction. By beginning at a point where events are already in motion, you involve your readers in the flow of action and get him caught up in your fiction right away. They you can back off and let him know what it is he”d gone and gotten himself interested in. p. 147

By springing ahead and falling back, a writer can create any number of new beginnings and avoid dull patches that would slow down his story. p. 148

Chapter 27: Don”t Take The D Train

It is a temptation for novice writers to over-report such subway rides because they”re easy to write about while skimping on more important scenes which are trickier to write. When that subway ride is important – when the hero gets beaten up in its course or shinnies up the third rail or whatever, that”s when you can”t cheat. You”ve got to write about it. p. 153

Chapter 28: The I”s Have It

Now that I think about it, I wonder if this bias against the first person isn”t very much part of our Puritan tradition. Mencken defined Puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy, and I don”t think he”d mind amending the definition to include the fear that someone somewhere my doing what comes naturally. After all, if something”s easy to do, if it comes naturally and simply and works like a charm, there must be something wrong with it. It”ll give you hair on your palms, or make you blind or something. p. 155

Maugham explained that as a young man he wrote with the stunning confidence of youth, adopting the omniscient third-person viewpoint. But when he grew older, he reported, he found it much more secure to write in his own voice and from a fixed point of view. (In Maugham”s particular case, the limitations of the first person have less effect than gravity on a soaring hawk. If you want to see the agility with which the master can bend the first person to his ends, dealing with events at which his narrator is not present, swimming to and fro in the currents of time, give some attention to The Razor”s Edge [One of the 18 Books That Have Influenced My Life, JH.], Cakes And Ale, and The Moon And Sixpence.) p. 156

Characterization in general comes more easily for me in first person books because it”s such a natural matter. You don”t observe from without. Instead, you get under your character”s skin and speak to the reader in his voice, and by doing this you not only make the character come alive for the reader. You make him come alive for your own self as you write. p. 156

(Often, I suspect, the reader winds up seeing the narrator as looking rather like himself. That”s as vital a process in fiction as transference is in psychoanalysis, and the last thing you want to do is impede it.) p. 157

…[I]t is possible for significant things to happen to the narrator without their being reported to the reader. This can be important in suspense fiction. While it”s not fair or dramatically satisfying to withhold important information forever, you can pick your time to reveal it. In The Sins Of The Father, for instance, I have Matt Scudder enter an apartment illegally to look for evidence. He reports: The window wasn”t locked. I opened it, let myself in, closed it after me. An hour later I went out the window and back up the fire escape… Now what Scudder found in the apartment is important, and a couple of chapters later he lets the reader know about it. But it would have slowed things down to report on his discoveries when he made them, so I postponed the revelations accordingly. More important, in the same book, there”s a point where he figures out What Really Happened-but that explanation”s postponed until a confrontation with the evil-doer rather than disclosed by having Scudder think aloud. p. 158

Chapter 29: The Plot”s The Thing.

I began to suspect that plot was the least important component of a story, that the only real question was whether the writer could write. p. 159

What gives, I suspect, is a confusion of plot and idea. An idea, as I see it, is the premise of a story. A plot is the structure by means of which that idea is transferred into a work of fiction. p. 159

I only recently made the acquaintance in print of one William Trevor, a short-story writer of uncommon excellence whose work I recommend to you without reservation. p. 160

Chapter 30: No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Motivation is the business of supplying your fictional characters with plausible reasons for them to act as you would have them act in order for your stories to be dramatically effective. p. 163

The excitement in Wilderness [by Robert B. Parker, JH] lies not merely in what happens but how it happens, and in how the characters act and react and how they are affected by their actions and reactions. p. 166

Chapter 31: Think You”ve Got Problems?

[P]roblem, after all, is what a story is about. To one extent or another, every story or novel involves a lead character”s attempt to cope with a problem. If the lead is well drawn and human and believable and sympathetic, if he”s the sort with whom the reader can strongly identify, then the reader will want things to work out for him. And, if the problem is believable and significant and urgent, and the lead”s successful resolution of the problem becomes important to the reader. p. 167

Fiction is one damned thing after another. If your hero, however likable he may be, confronts his problem, however desperate it may be, and just plain goes ahead and solves it, you have not got something Publisher”s Weekly is going to call a “real page turner.” p. 168

There”s a moral here. When things flag a wee bit, do something dramatic, put a bear in a canoe or bring in a bearded, turbaned Sikh with a gun in his hand. p. 171

Chapter 32: Judging Distances

In multiple-viewpoint novels, a frequent auctorial trick consists of calling your hero by his first name, while calling other characters by their last names, even in scenes where they are the viewpoint characters. Robert Ludlum generally does this. It”s a way of putting a white hat on the good guy, telling the reader whom to root for. Sometimes I find this awkward, but sometimes it seems perfectly natural. p. 173

At least as important as what you call your lead is the extent to which you call him anything at all. The more you use any name, the more distance you create. If you want to draw the reader in close, the trick is to use pronouns at all times except when to do so would result in confusion. Use the name to establish who we”re talking about, and often enough throughout to avoid unclarity. At all other times, stick with he and she. You”ll probably find that you don”t have to use names very often. p. 173

In dialogue passages, you can cut down the distance even more by eliminating everything but the dialogue itself. Whatever else you include calls the reader”s attention t the fact that he”s not really overhearing a conversation but reading something that somebody wrote. Some of the distance is eliminated when you use said instead of substitute verbs, when you use pronouns instead of names and when you cut out modifiers. “Jennings ruminated archly” is a more distancing phrase than “he said.” When you drop the he saids and she saids as well, slipping one in now and then only when it would otherwise become hard to keep straight who”s speaking, you make the conversation that much more intimate and bring the reader that much closer into it. p. 173

Chapter 33: It”s A Frame

A frame as a literary device is a way of setting a story-either a short story or a novel-within a fictional superstructure of one sort or another. In its simplest form, such a story might consist of two men running into each other in a bar, say, and… having a friendly drink together, and one says something and the other is reminded of a story. Which he… tells at considerable length. When the story”s finished they have one last drink and go their separate ways. See how this works? The actual core of the story is whatever the [man] relates to the other, and the reader”s in the position of a person on the next barstool, eavesdropping on their conversation. That barroom sequence encloses and sets off the true story just as a picture frame surrounds a canvas. p. 176

Let”s consider a frame of another sort, one in which the framing device is not a conversation but the passage of time. An example that comes quickly to mind is True Grit, the novel b y Charles Portis. The book takes the form of the first-person narrative of a fourteen-year-old girl”s pursuit of her father”s killer, be we are being told the story years and years after the fact, by the woman into whom the fourteen-year-old girl has grown. p. 177

I think we would have to acknowledge that some suspense and some immediacy is lost as a result of the frame device. Are there gains to offset this loss? And what might they be? It seems to me that there”s a significant gain in dimension. In Portis”s novel, we see Mattie”s whole life, not just the portion she tells us about. We learn by means of occasional asides that she never married, that she has become a rather hard-nosed business woman, that her neighbors and associates have come to regard her as somewhat eccentric, and by learning this while watching her perform as an adolescent we are seeing an illustration of Wordsworth”s observation that the child is father to the man (or, in this case, mother of the woman). p. 177

Chapter 34: Documentary Evidence

On the one hand, the reader knows that the book he”s holding in his hands is a novel, that some myopic fictioneer made up the whole thing and penned (or more likely typed) all the letters or diary entries. This being the case, one might argue that all other considerations should be subordinated to Telling The Story. p. 182

On the other hand, there”s a special treat for the reader when the writer does try for verisimilitude. When I can read a book and believe ( in the sense of that voluntary suspension of disbelief essential for success of fiction) that I”m reading real letters or a real diary, my enjoyment is greatly enhanced. p. 182

Chapter 35: Surprise!

Probably the most common amateur surprise ending is one in which the author, having deliberately concealed a central fact from the reader simply to make the story work, concludes by revealing that fact with a flourish. The reader”s usual response to this sort of trickery is not awe at the author”s imaginative powers and verbal legerdemain but cold fury at his unadulterated gall. p. 186

The best surprise endings don”t merely surprise the reader. In addition they force him to reevaluate everything that has preceded them, so that he views the actions and the characters in a different light. p. 188


Chapter 36: Never Apologize, Never Explain.

One thing I”ve noticed in reading the work of new writes, published and unpublished, is a tendency to explain too much. It seems to me that this generally stems from one of two things-a desire to control the reader”s interpretation of what one has written or a reluctance to trust the reader”s ability to make sense of what is going on. p. 193

In the theater, one important concept is that of the audience as constituting the fourth wall. In other words, the interpretative ability of the audience is part of the dynamic of the theatrical performance. I think the same holds true for fiction. A short story or novel constitutes a subtly different experience for every person who reads it, simply because each reader brings a different perspective and background to bear upon what he reads. p. 196

We cannot control how the reader will receive our fictional message, nor should we be able as writers to assert such control. The best we can do, I believe, is write carefully and as honestly as we can and let the reader make of our work what he will. If we write well, enough people will get enough of the message. p. 196

Chapter 37: He Said She Said

There is no more important component of fiction than dialogue. The words your characters speak to one another do more to convey their nuances to the reader than any words you can employ yourself to sketch them. Dialogue advances and defines plot, renders complicated developments fathomable, and permits fiction to raise its voice, speaking, not merely to the mind but the ear as well. p. 198

[A] novel”s readability-not its worth or quality, but its sheer readability-is in direct proportion to the amount of conversation it contains. The more nearly a novel resembles a play in prose form, the simpler it is for the average reader to come to grips with it. p. 198

Rule No. 1: If your characters are good, and if the dialogue you hand them is natural, you should leave it alone as much as possible. Put them onstage and let them talk to each other. And stay the hell out of the way. p. 198

Dean Koontz told me once that he makes it an absolute rule never to use any verb but said in dialogue. p. 199

Chapter 38: Verbs For Vim And Vigor.

We can muse that the language itself affords precedent for what Wodehouse has done here. When on lubricates a slice of toast with butter, for example, the verb to butter is in widespread use. If one can butter a slice of bread, why shouldn”t one be permitted to marmalade it? One oils various articles-an engine, a watch, whatever. Could one oil a bowl of salad, preparatory to vinegaring it? p. 202

Wodehouse rewrote intensively. In a letter he described how he pinned pages of his current manuscript around the walls of his study, singling out those that were insufficiently energetic, returning to them again and again and reworking them. He was a perfectionist, convinced that every line of a Jeeves story had to have entertainment value. p. 204

When something is wrong with a sentence, more often than not it can be improved by changing a verb or two, making one of those action words more active, or more specific, or less ordinary, or, well, just plain better. p. 204

My English teacher had us thing of synonyms for get. I have a feeling she may have been somewhat obsessive on the subject. In any event, she had us compile a lengthy list of alternatives for this verb, which she described as banal, nonspecific, and a blight upon the mother tongue. p. 204

I would suggest you notice, in your reading, how other writers use verbs, and what you do or don”t like about their techniques. p. 205

If you”re interested in watching a master put not only verbs but all the other parts of speech through their paces, you might make the acquaintance of Pelham Greenville Wodehouse. p. 205

Chapter 39: Modifiers For Mood-Swing.

The writing of prose, you see, is rather more like painting than photography. We cannot point a camera and, with a click of the shutter, record instantly all that is visible to the lens. Instead we must wield worlds as a painter wields a brush [paint, JH], spotting a detail here and there while leaving another section purposely vague. p. 207

The peeled white body of the beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulcher; though changed in hue, it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk. It is still colossal. Slowly, it floats more and more away, the water round it torn and splashed by the insatiate sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting poniards in the whale. The vast white headless phantom floats further and further from the ship, and ever rod that it so floats, what seem like square roods of sharks and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous din. For hours and hours from the almost stationary ship that hideous sight is seen. Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of the pleasant sea, wafted by joyous breezes, the great mass of death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives. p. 208

First we have these adjectives which simply describe, and do so in an uninflected fashion. The peeled white body of the beheaded whale-thee adjectives fill in a picture for us without telling us how the author feels about it, or suggesting how we ought to feel. The ship, we are told, is stationary. The body floats slowly. The sky is unclouded. p. 209

A second class of adjective includes those which, while still deliberately factual, are concerned as well with our response to what is going on. It is a fact that the sharks are insatiate, the fowls are rapacious and screaming, and the bulk of the dead whale is colossal, but how do we feel about the noise and appetite of the scavengers and the size of the whale is colored by the choice of modifiers. p. 209

Other adjectives are still more subjective. That the din is murderous is not a measure of volume, nor does it have anything to do with what is actually going on-the whale is already dead, so the act performed by the birds and sharks is only figuratively murderous. That the sight is hideous is similarly a conclusion of the author. Finally, fair and pleasant and joyous are wholly subjective, telling us nothing about the actual effect or appearance of the sea and the breezes but instructing us as to how they are to be perceived. p. 209

Even so, this isn”t very good writing. The modifiers are not descriptive but judgmental. p. 210

Afterward, though, when you reread what you”ve done, you might want to see whether your modifiers , your descriptive words, do the job you”ve given them. should they be more or less specific? Should they me more descriptive? More judgmental? Are you trying to control the reader”s reaction? Should you aim for more show and less tell? Have you overloaded your prose with adverbs and adjectives? Or have you gone overboard in the other direction, being rather too sparing in their use? p. 210

Chapter 40: Writing With Your Eyes Closed.

Some of my most productive time as a writer of fiction is spent seated at my typewriter with my fingers still and my eyes closed. In this fashion I”m able to see a picture within my mind. Once I”ve seen and experienced it, it”s a much simpler matter to open my eyes, hit the typewriter keys, and convert what I”ve seen into prose and dialogue. p. 211

In other words, don”t dwell on what actually took place as much as how everything looked and sounded and felt and tasted and smelled, and how you felt about it and experienced it. p. 214

Sometimes my mental picture will be more painting than photograph with details alternately stressed or blurred. I have found, though, that the more completely I realized scenes before writing them, the more at ease I am in recreating them for the reader, the more apt I am to be satisfied with my work. p. 214

There was once a school of thought in the theater that maintained that scenery should be as detailed as possible, even down to details which could never possibly be apparent to the audience. If there was a desk on stage, for example, there ought to be papers and pencils and such in the drawers, even if those drawers were destined to remain shut throughout the performance. I don”t suppose there are many set designers nowadays who devote much time to filling up unopened desk drawers, but I think the principle is a sound one. I know it works at the typewriter, and at root the reason is as basic a one as you can get. Fiction, let us never forget, cannot work properly without the reader”s voluntary suspension of disbelief. He knows it”s just a story but he elects to discard that knowledge. While he reads it, he chooses to believe in it. But first is it not essential that the writer suspend his own disbelief? p. 214

See it first, and then write it. p. 214

Chapter 41: Hum A Few Bars… And Fake It.

“Telling writers how to fake,” she said, “is like teaching children how to steal. You should be ashamed of yourself.” I should indeed be ashamed of myself, and I often am, but not this time. For fakery is the heart and soul of fiction. All our novels and short stories are nothing but a pack of lies. p. 215

Faking locations, p. 215; faking expertise, p. 216; easy does it, p. 217; watch out for sharp muletas p. 217; and take care of the pence, p 217.

Chapter 42: Character Building.

In order for a piece of fiction to work, its characters must fulfill three requirements: they must be plausible they must be sympathetic and they must be original. p. 219

When characters are implausible, the reader cannot manage the trick of voluntary suspension of disbelief without which fiction never becomes involving. p. 219

When a character is lacking in originality, the reader”s capacities for both believing and identifying are strained. If the hero walks through the pages like an empty suit of clothes, how can we regard him as more than a mechanical device? p. 219

It”s not uncommon for writers to do a lot of labeling and mistake it for originality of characterization. p. 219

It is not the quirks that make an enduring character but the essential personality which the quirks highlight. How the character views the world, how he acts and reacts, is of much greater importance than what he had for breakfast. p. 220

Perhaps the best way I can put it is to say that they act as I would act if I happened to be them. p. 220

Chapter 43: Casting

The waitress watched him with wary hostility, as if she were afraid he might be putting her on. She was middle-aged and hard-faced, with a beehive of champagne-colored hair that she kept patting and touching to reassure herself it was still there in all its glory. But she was not a bit out of place in the steakhouse, with its linoleum-covered floor and tube-steel furniture and blaring, country-rock jukebox.

That”s from Cutter And Bone, by Newton Thornburg. It”s good writing, but then if there”s a bad sentence anywhere in the novel I didn”t notice it. I picked this particular passage to quote because the writer has given us such a perfect description of a bit player. p. 222

He stood five-ten, weighed around 155 pounds. His hair was dark brown verging on black, slicked down and combed straight back. He had a broad forehead and a strong, hawk-like nose. His eyes were a medium brown. His mouth was wide, full-lipped, and when he drew back those lips to smile he showed large even teeth. His suit was a gray sharkskin, a three-button model with padding in the shoulders. He wore a buff-colored shirt with a tab collar, a navy silk tie with a restrained below-the-knot design. He-

As a quick study of a minor character in a work of fiction, it tells us more than we need to know and less than we”d like to know. In contrast, look again at the description of the waitress from Cutter And Bone. Thornburg doesn”t tell us if the lady is tall or short, just a few words about her hairstyle and the hardness of her face. But I know what she looks like. p. 224

By concentrating on details and not attempting to describe photographically, you greatly increase your chances of writing something the reader will happen to remember. By relating those aspect of the character worth mentioning, and by omitting pedestrian physical description, you make an impression upon the reader. p. 225

Ian Fleming did this all the time, and not without knowing what he was about. James Bond”s supporting players were all caricatures, deliberately twisted to comic-book grotesquery. They had improbably names and unlikely physical attributes and mannerisms. This made the Bond books vivid and memorable and had a great deal to do with their success. It also made them utterly unrealistic and ruined them for those readers for whom the illusion of reality is a requirement for the enjoyment of fiction. p. 225

Chapter 44: Name Calling

Avoid confusion. This might be too obvious to mention but for the fact that even published writers slip up from time to time, hurling Carl and Cal and Carol and Carolyn all into the same chapter, peopling a crowd scene with Smathers and Smithers and Dithers and Mather. Be conscious of this sort of thing and avoid it. p. 227

Watch out for the falling stars. Sometimes a name will pop into your mind. It has such a nice feel to it and fits your concept of your character so perfectly that you don”t realize you”ve heard the name before. Or even seen it in lights. p. 227

Pick interesting names. I know there area lot of John Smiths in the world, and I wish them well, but I certainly don”t want to encounter any more of their number in fiction. p. 228

Personally I”ve come to favor lengthy last names rather than short ones, and uncommon names rather than common ones. p. 228

First names can be interesting too. Of late I”ve taken to using surnames as first names and I like the effect of it. p. 229

Don”t get too cute. If too many of your character names are too interesting, plausibility is sacrificed. p. 229

Don”t twist the reader”s tongue. Even though your story or novel may not be designed to read aloud, and even though you are not aiming your fiction at an audience of lip-movers, you should avoid throwing a jawbreaker of a name at your reader. p. 229

Research your ethnic names. If one of your characters is a Latvian or Montenegrin or whatever, it”s easy to add an authentic note to your work by picking a suitable name for him. A good encyclopedia comes in handy. If you want a Latvian character, look up Latvia and Latvian Language and Literature.

Chapter 45: Repeat Performances And Return Engagements

The creation of a series character was an early ambition of mine. Once I passed the stage of merely wanting to write some indefinable great book and developed specific authorial aims, I recognized the desire to create an enduring character and write voluminously about him. Part of this urge stemmed from the amateur”s conviction that there”s an easy way to literary success. A great many non-writers tend to make this assumption. “Once you”ve got a formula, I suppose you”ve got it made,” no end of people have said to me, the envy unmistakable in their tone. It strikes me that they”ve made two false assumptions-(1) that I”ve got a formula and (2) that I”ve got it made. p. 233

Series fans, then want each book to be the same only different. But Tanner”s fans were spending six or eight or ten hours a year reading about their hero while I was devoting that many months a year to writing about him, and I was accordingly more affected by what I perceived as repetition.

I suppose too, that I was ready to outgrow Tanner as a vehicle for self-expression. I had not yet finished developing as a writer and needed other books, other sorts of stories, in order to facilitate this growth.

Some writers handle this by allowing the character to grow. The most striking example that comes to mind is Ross Macdonald”s Lew Archer, who was not a whole lot more than a wisecracking copy of Raymond Chandler Phillip Marlow in his earliest appearances. As Macdonald grew, so did Archer, and by the time The Galton Case was published in the late fifties, Archer had undergone a radical change. This evolution has continued over the years, and I reach for each new volume as it is published, wondering what Archer”s up to now. p. 234

It is as if the creators are uncomfortable with them as criminals and yearn to reform them. Perhaps, at the risk of plumbing psychoanalytical depths, we might suggest that they”re uncomfortable with themselves writing repeatedly from a criminal perspective. Voltaire, it is said, made a visit to a highly specialized bordello and enjoyed himself. He declined the opportunity to return for a second visit. “Once a philosopher,” he said. “Twice a pervert. So it is, perhaps, with writers. To explore the mind of the criminal by writing from his viewpoint is one thing. To establish him in an extended series of books as one”s literary alter ego is something else. p. 235

Writing, however well I prepare for it, is never a simple matter of filing in the blanks. The magic that happens at the actual moment of creation is an indispensable part of the whole. p. 237

Concentrate on the book at hand. I”ve occasionally had letters from neophytes who describe themselves as working on the first volume of a series, and I know that first novels thus described frequently turn up in the hands of agents and publishers. The agents and publishers are not much impressed. Their interest in a manuscript is in its own merits or lack thereof, not in what may or may not follow it in the course of time.

It”s hard enough to write a novel and make it work. Projecting an entire series merely dilutes your efforts. Stay in the now, work on the book you”re working on, and leave the question of future books open until you”ve finished the job. p. 237

Some books use of their lead characters. The strength and appeal of a character is not in and of itself reason to hang a series on him. Such Men Are Dangerous (written under the pen name Paul Kavanagh) is arguably my best book, and had as strong a lead character as I”ve created. but the book used him up, not in the sense of killing him off but in that he completed his business by the end. p. 237

Don”t presume the reader has read the previous volumes. You want to make things fully comprehensible for the new reader without boring the jaw teeth out of your longtime fans. For my own part, I”ve grown tired of hearing again how Meyer Meyer got his name and lost all his hair; every Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel tell s me the story over again. My own readers may be every bit as tired reading about how a bullet of Scudder”s ricocheted to kill Estrellita Rivera and plunge my hero into the Slough of Despond. A delicate balance indeed. p. 238

Remember what you wrote. p. 238

The first person/third person choice. Of my series characters, all but Ehrengraf speak in the first person. p. 238

Chapter 46: We Can Always Change The Title

The title you give your manuscript is very likely the least important factor in determining whether or not it sells. p. 240

A title should be memorable and fit the book or story that follows it. p. 241

Watch out for unpronounceable words. Robert Ludlum”s titles are always carefully chosen and invariably combine a distinctive proper name and a noun-The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Osterman Weekend, The Matlock Paper, The Matarsee Circle. One book was very nearly entitled The Wolfsschanze Covenant, until an informal survey revealed that a lot of people were by no means confident of their ability to pronounce Wolfsschanze correctly. p. 241

Don”t make the title do the story”s job. p. 241

Chapter 47: A Writer”s Prayer

For starters, help me to avoid comparing myself to other writers. I can make a lot of trouble for myself when I do that, sliding into a routine that might go badly. p. 247

Lord, help me to remember that I”m not in competition with other writers. Whether they have more or less success has nothing to do with me. p. 248

Help me Lord, to be as honest as I”m capable of being every time I sit down at the keyboard. p. 248

When a character of mine is talking, let me listen to him and write down what I hear. Let me describe him, not with phrases dimly recalled from other books, but as I perceive him. p. 248

Let me write what I”m able to respect, and let me respect those people I hope will read it. p. 249

Humility helps me keep myself in perspective . When my humility is in good order, both success and failure become easier to take. I”m able to recognize that the fate of empires does not hinge upon my work. I can see then that my writing will never be perfect, and that perfection is not a goal to which I can legitimately aspire. All I ever have to do is the best I can. p. 249

My primary job is writing. My secondary job is offering what I”ve written for sale. What happens after that is somebody else”s job. p. 251

The chief reward of any artistic effort (and perhaps of every other effort as well) is the work itself. Success lies in the accomplishment, not in its fruits. If I write well, I”m a success. Wealth and fame might be fun (or they might not) but they”re largely beside the point. p. 251

Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image