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

“We read or listen to or look at works of art in the hope of experiencing our highest, most selfless emotion, either to reach a sublime communication with the maker of the work, sharing his affirmations as common lovers do, or to find, in works of literature, characters we love as we do real people.” John Gardner

 “When human beings love they try to get something. They also try to give something, and this double aim makes love more complicated than food and sleep.” E.M. Forster

“If you wonder whether you should be a novelist, the answer is no, but if you find that you can’t stop writing, the answer is yes.” John Fowles

“I feel refreshed. I become anonymous, a person who writes for the love of it.” Virginia Woolf

“For great art, even concern is not enough. Great art celebrates life’s potential, offering a vision unmistakably and unsentimentally rooted in love. “Love” is of course another of those embarrassing words, perhaps a word even more embarrassing than “morality,” but it’s a word no aesthetician ought carelessly to drop from his vocabulary. Misused as it may be by pornographers and the makers of greeting-cards, it has, nonetheless, a firm, hard-headed sense that names the single quality without which true art cannot exist.” John Gardner

“It seems all but self-evident that it is for the pleasure of exercising our capacity to love that we pick up a book at all.” John Gardner

“In art, morality and love are inextricably bound: we affirm what is good—for the characters in particular and for humanity in general—because we care. The artist who has no strong feeling about his characters—the artist who can feel passionate only about his words or ideas—has no urgent reason to think hard about the characters’ problems, the ‘themes’ in his fiction. He imitates human gestures in the movements of his puppets, but he does not worry as a father worries about the behavior of his son; and the result is a fictional universe one would not want one’s loved ones forced to inhabit. This is the final point John Fowles makes in his novel on the modern novel, Daniel Martin: ‘No true compassion without will, no true will without compassion.’” John Gardner

“Without will—the artist’s conscious determination to take his characters and their problems seriously—no artist can achieve real compassion. And without compassion—without real and deep love for his ‘subjects’ (the people he writes about and, by extension, all human beings)—no artist can summon the will to make true art; he will be satisfied, instead, with clever language or with cynical jokes and too easy, dire solutions like those common in contemporary fiction.” John Gardner

“True art’s divine madness is shot through with love: love of the good, a love proved not by some airy and abstract highmindedness but by active celebration of whatever good or trace of good can be found by a quick and compassionate eye in this always corrupt and corruptible but god-freighted world.” John Gardner

 “The artist who feels contempt for most of humanity, and who works not out of love but out of scorn or ego or some other base motive, will be remembered down through time only insofar as his work, despite his theories, is admired and loved by the children of ordinary humanity.” John Gardner

“No one is much inclined to spend days, weeks, years, imitating an existence he does not really like in the first place.” John Gardner

“Insofar as he pretends not to private vision but to omniscience, he cannot, as a rule, love some of his characters and despise others.” John Gardner

“To be psychologically suited for membership in what I have called the highest class of novelists, the writer must be not only capable of understanding people different from himself but fascinated by such people. He must have sufficient self-esteem that his is not threatened by difference, and sufficient warmth and sympathy, and sufficient concern with fairness, that he wants to value people different from himself; and finally he must have, I think, sufficient faith in the goodness of life that he can not only tolerate but celebrate a world of differences, conflicts, oppositions.” John Gardner

“No man can write who is not first a humanitarian.” William Faulkner