Advice from Edgar Allen Poe

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Did you ever wonder how Edgar Allen Poe made his endings work so effectively. Here he explains in this excerpt from an essay that first appearied in Graham’s Magazine.

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The Philosophy of Composition

Edgar Allen Poe

Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its denouement before anything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the denouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all pints, tend to the development of the intention.

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis – or one is suggested by an incident of the day – or, at best the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative – designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view – for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest – I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion select?”

Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone – whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone – aftward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

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2 thoughts on “Advice from Edgar Allen Poe

    • Thank you for commenting on the Advice from Edgar Allen Poe blog. Please check out the newest. I will try to see the article you linked.

      sorry it’s been a while. I’m just realizing where to find comments (awaiting approval).

      Best,
      Sandra

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