Clare B. Dunkle

Storytelling and Fiction Writing

Clare Dunkle's favorite quotations about writers and writing

Duck at the San Antonio Zoo

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

When the Lord finished the world, He pronounced it good. That is what I said about my first work, too. But Time, I tell you, Time takes the confidence out of these incautious opinions.
—Mark Twain

All creative work has its greatest reality while it is still in a man's mind, before he begins to execute it.
—John Prebble

I attended Catholic school. We received a great education from the nuns. ... Also, guilt. Guilt and a feeling of never being satisfied with what you’ve done. And a sense that you are inadequate and a big phony. All useful for a writer. I’m always being edited by my inner nun.
—George Saunders

I didn't have the audacity to write it. It was just all bottled in insecurity. Sometimes I think a melody asks something from you that you don't want to necessarily face.
—Billie Joe Armstrong

Fiction does not invent out of a vacuum, but it invents; and what it invents is, first, the fabric and cadence of language, and then a slant of idea that sails out of these as a fin lifts from the sea.
—Cynthia Ozick

You can’t expect that, after a poor fellow has written a book, he should also understand it.
—Giovannino Guareschi

They never go out after supper. Apparently Uncle Ted once got struck with an idea for a book in the middle of the Welsh National Opera and they had to leave so that he could go and write Chapter One. Janine is opposed to wasting money like that, so they stay in now. They almost never watch television because it interferes with Uncle Ted's ideas.
—Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret

When rewriting, move quickly. It's a little like cutting your own hair.
—Robert Stone

I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. And therefore I am so grateful to God for giving me this gift of writing, of expressing all that is in me!
—Anne Frank

I don't know how it is with other writers, but most of the time when I finish [reading] a story or novel, I may be pleased, I may even be impressed, but somewhere in the back of my mind I'm thinking, I can do that.
—F. Paul Wilson

Writer's block ... is simply a failure of ego.
—Norman Mailer

Be you writer or reader, it is very pleasant to run away in a book.
—Jean Craighead George

Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories"

Each [book] was a crystal in which the child dreamed that he saw life moving.
—Graham Greene, "The Lost Childhood"

You have to understand, writing a novel gets very weird and invisible-friend-from-childhood-ish. Then you kill that thing, which was never really alive except in your imagination, and you're supposed to go buy groceries and talk to people at parties and stuff.
—David Foster Wallace

... Experience was an unnecessary and usually baffling obstacle to her imagination.
—Elizabeth Coles Taylor, 1912-1975, Angel

I have read wonderfully written books that are entirely unsatisfactory to me because I do not believe that the author was writing a story. The author was writing a book. There is a great difference.
—Kaitlyn Ramsey

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
—Tom Clancy

I have the longing that all writers have for new ears to pour my words into.
—Alasdair MacLean, Night falls on Ardnamurchan

And he respects Owl, because you can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count.
—A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I love the process of giving birth to the sentences and paragraphs and pages which allow me to share the fire of my soul with another human being. ... Can I quit? Certainly. ... I can quit, but I can't deny. I have a writer's heart. I am a writer.
—Craig Mecham

Style is made up of whatever an author can't avoid doing.
—Neil Gaiman

I had a friend who said, "You don't have an internal critic. You have an internal sadist."
—Libba Bray

For most people who write, writing is a compulsion. If I could be healed of it, I would, and I think a lot of people who write feel the same way.
—T.R. Pearson

I begin indeed to fear that I have undertaken an impossibility, undertaken to tell what I cannot tell because no speech at my command will fit the forms in my mind.
—George MacDonald, Lilith

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

The only flaw in Egbert Mulliner's happiness, as he knelt beside her, babbling comforting words, was the gloomy conviction that Evangeline would certainly lift the entire scene, dialogue and all, and use it in her next novel. And it was for this reason that, when he could manage it, he censored his remarks to some extent.
—P.G. Wodehouse, "Best Seller"

Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I have ever written.
—G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

I just like to type to see my own hands.
Ven Stone

There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect, compared with which reproach, hatred and opposition are names of happiness.
—Samuel Johnson

It contained the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality.
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

When romances do really teach anything, or produce any effective operation, it is usually through a far more subtle process than the ostensible one. The author has considered it hardly worth his while, therefore, relentlessly to impale the story with its moral as with an iron rod—or, rather, as by sticking a pin through a butterfly—thus at once depriving it of life, and causing it to stiffen in an ungainly and unnatural attitude.
—Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

When I am dead, I hope it may be said,
‘His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
—Hilaire Belloc

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.
—Ernest Hemingway

But how powerful, how stimulating to the very faculty that produced it, was the invention of the adjective. ... The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift, also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories"

Art is the lie that tells the truth.
—Pablo Picasso

Thus ends, in unavoidable inadequacy, the attempt to utter the unutterable things.
—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

All webpage text copyright 2003-2014 by Clare B. Dunkle, unless attributed otherwise. All photos copyright 2003-2014 by Joseph R. Dunkle, unless attributed otherwise. You may make one print copy of any page on this site for private or educational use. You may quote the author using short excerpts from this website, provided you attribute the quote. You may use the photos in both print and virtual media to promote the author's books or events. All other copying or use of this website material, either photos or text, is forbidden without the express written consent of the author.