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Writers Workshop > Examples of LONG Excerpts in Novels?

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message 1: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (last edited Sep 04, 2020 11:53AM) (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4333 comments Mod
Ben writ:

"Hello, all! Longtime, first-time, etc.

I am working on a short story where the chapters alternate between the main narrative and excerpts from a different story. I have seen this done multiple times.

[Deleted stuff]


...each chapter begins with a very short excerpt from an imaginary book. Typically just a few sentences. In The Dark Half, by example, we see a passage from Machine's Way. In Amazing Maurice, we see a passage from Mr. Bunsy has an Adventure.

I reckon these never (or rarely) confuse the reader, because they're so short that anyone can see the right-aligned text at the end of the excerpt that says what book it's from.

My issue, though, is that I'm wanting to put much longer excerpts in my story. Some are multiple pages long. And so, I worry that it will confuse the reader -- they won't see the end of the except and so for a few moments, it'll probably be pretty jarring.

So I wonder if I should begin these excerpts with something like "the following is an excerpt from such-and-such." Does anyone know of a published book with an example of something like that?"


Normally I don my mean mod hat and delete such posts completely for ignoring the "no links" rule, but I like your question. It's a good one and has never been brought up before.

If you want to put long excerpts into a story or novel and you want to be sure people won't think it's part of the main narrative, you can narrow the margins a bit. You can also put it in italics. I did this off and on in my second novel, sometimes to indicate the main character was telling a story, sometimes to indicate that a passage was from a book that several of my characters talk about from time to time.

In John Irving's "The World According to Garp", long passages from Garp's various stories and novels are included in the novel. As I recall he used italics to highlight the passages so the reader would not be confused as to if they were reading Garp's life story or a part of his work.


message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben Haskett | 5 comments Aw NUTS. I'm sorry about that Dwayne! Thank you for not deleting the whole post. You're right of course, I totally goofed -- I figured that rule's purpose was to avoid blatant self promotion.

The books I mentioned (without links this time, haha), are Stephen King's The Dark Half, Terri Pratchet's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and Jeremy L. Jones's Saturnius Mons.

Thank you for that example! I asked this question in a Facebook group and someone else mentioned Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, so now I have two rock-solid examples to pore through. I appreciate the help!


message 3: by A. (new)

A. Nation (anation) | 26 comments I did this in one of my travel mysteries. the MC is reading a book and similar things happen along the way until she solves the mystery.


message 4: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 889 comments As long as the excerpts are from imaginary books, you are good. I've not read books with anything but a couple of lines of poetry or from a book. Unless it is relevant to the story, I'd probably skip over it.


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