This morning I read a useful piece I want to park here for myself and others, on the elements of good fiction. The author cites several classic books to make his point, and I like that. Darin Strauss, in PowellsBooks.blog, writes "Notes on Narrative," including the following little blurb:
Theme is the trickiest thing to think about, because it can lead to theme-mongering, or preaching. The beauty of fiction lies not in argument but "in the unconscious self-revelation of people, in the sight of them floundering amid their own words, and performing strange strokes as they swim about, with no visible shore, in their own lives. In art you become familiar with due process," Saul Bellow writes in Ravelstein. "You can't simply write people off or send them to hell." The mistake, as James Wood puts it, is to assume you are too smart for storybooks. Don't, in other words, use fiction to win an argument or to advance a political idea. That's what essays are for.