(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“I, as I write this, am only a certainty that seeks out the words that are most apt to compel your attention.” Jorge Luis Borges

“If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on any one point, it is this: the surest way to arouse and hold the reader’s attention is by being specific, definite, and concrete. The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effectively large because they deal in particulars and report the details of the matter. Their words call up pictures.” Strunk and White

“Homer would ask the muse to help him, we must invoke the imagination, or our aesthetic will, or some fashion in what’s getting published. Whatever we invoke, we are dependent on the reader’s attention.” Guy Davenport

“When an artist of true authority speaks—someone like Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Racine, Dostoevsky, or Melville—we listen, all attention, even if what he says seems at first a little queer.” John Gardner

“Like the philosopher, the scientist, and the preacher, the artist bangs for the world’s attention and declares with gusto and conviction, It’s like this.” John Gardner

“The opening of a story or play or poem has special significance in setting the point of view, establishing the mood, gaining the reader’s attention and interest.” S.I. Hayakawa