The Hidden Machinery (research review)

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The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey (2017) makes me feel like a writer. Why? Because when I read it I am filled with a sense of recognition: I recognise the peculiar writery problems, I identify with the struggle for nuance and balance – and I can immediately see application to my own work. It’s a book for writers – and I’m a writer! There is no way I can reduce The Hidden Machinery down to #ThreeGifts; it’s one long, quirky, generous, endlessly fascinating gift. This review has already taken far too long because every time I pick up the book for quotable quotes I’m lost for 20 minutes reminding myself of Livesey’s tips on Creating Characters Who Walk off the Page (give a new character something in common with me – plus something we absolutely do not share), thoughts on the appeal of writing romance (the wonderful “possibilities for bad behaviour”) or lessons to be learnt from Shakespeare (“begin dramatically … don’t keep back the good stuff … don’t over explain”). Then there is this from the essay on Letting Our Characters Tell and Show: “Dialogue can allow us to convey information … of which neither the characters nor the narrator is fully aware. Dialogue is not only showing as opposed to telling, it is also showing what cannot be told.” And how about this analysis of Woolf’s approach to the description of characters: “She refuses to sum them up … We see them as they see themselves we see them as others see them. Forget the impressionists and think of Picasso depicting a woman’s face, fractured, from several angles”? Just don’t ask to borrow my copy. It’s not leaving my desk. Ever. #amwriting #amlearning #bookstagram #novelwriting

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About Hannah

Author of literary historical fiction set in the First World War. Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, films, book and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.
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