What makes a novel feel big?
It isn’t a function of length, setting or theme. Some of the smallest manuscripts I’ve read were the longest. War stories and epic sagas don’t necessarily have much to say. Universal themes—love conquers all, for instance—can be familiar and flat.
Bigness arises in other ways. A microcosmic world portrayed in detail can feel bigger than its boundaries. A less obvious insight can strike us with the force of truth. The eyes of a simpleton can show us humanity’s infinite variety.
All those things are so, yet the novels which illustrate those principles can be one time accidents. For professional novelists the challenge is to create fiction that feels big every time. For commercial novelists, that can mean every year. Are there guidelines to help? [Read more…]