Tag Archives: Organic

Woolf: Freedom in Modern Fiction

“if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewed on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” InĀ The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

Life is an organic thing, as is fiction. How a writer or novelist creates their work of fiction should not be as constrained as it apparently is. There are expectations that writers feel obliged to abide by in order to entertain his or her readers – expectations of comedy, tragedy, love interests, catastrophes or precise characters. If a writer were to write as they see fit, it would be a direct portrayal of what the author intended, without the elementsĀ so finely executed in other works that came before. I find a connection here with poetry – there are guidelines, there are measures, patterns, rhythms to be followed, but there is also an opportunity to freely abandon such rules, a freedom Woolf believes should be available to fiction writers – let novelists write freely, modern fiction is just as crucial to literary culture as works that are more rigorously/strictly designed.