a site by John Cobley

a coppice gate


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John Fowles and Paul Scott: The Initial Image

Comparison of two novelists using an image to start a novel.

It’s striking that two of the best English novels from the 1960’s both evolved initially from an image that came to the authors as a vision. Novelists generally begin with a concept, a situation, or a core narrative idea, but John Fowles and Paul Scott developed their novels from an initial image. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) evolved from the image of a woman standing at the end of a long quay, The Jewel in the Crown (1964) from the image of a girl running.  Both novelists have described how their initial image developed into a novel: Fowles in “Notes on an Unfinished Novel”  (Harper’s Magazine,1968; Wormholes, 1998); Scott in “Method: The Mystery and the Mechanics,” My Appointment with the Muse (1986).

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