Writing Quotes from, “The Sea Priestess”

music playing:  Swan Lake

Here are some quotes on writing  from Dion Fortune’s, “The Sea Priestess” (1938)

From the Introduction:

1.  “It was said by a reviewer of one of my previous books that it is a pity I make my characters so unlikeable.  This was a great surprise to me, for it had never occurred to me that my characters were unlikeable.  What kind of barber’s blocks are required in order that readers may love them?  In real life no one escapes the faults of their qualities, so why should they in fiction?”

2.  “Any writer will agree that narrative in the first person is a most difficult technique to handle.  The method of presentation is in actuality that of drama, though maintaining the appearance of narrative; moreover everything has to be seen not only through the eyes, but through the temperament of the person who is telling the story.  A restraint has to be observed in the emotional passages lest the blight of self-pity appear on the hero.”

3.   ” People read fiction in order to supplement the diet life provides them…It is too well known to need emphasis that readers, reading for emotional compensation, identify themselves with the hero or heroine as the case may be, and for this reason the writers who cater for this class of taste invariably make the protagonist of the opposite sex to themselves the oleographic representation of a wish-fulfilment.  The he-men who write for he-men invariably provide as heroine either a glutinous, synthetic, saccharine creature, and call the result romance, or else combine all the incompatibles in the human character and think they have achieved realism.”

4.  “Equally the lady novelist will provide her readers with such males as never stepped into a pair of trousers; on whom, in fact, trousers would be wasted.”

From Main Text:

5. “The keeping of a diary is usually reckoned a vice in one’s contemporaries  though a virtue in one’s ancestors.”

6. “We read novels as a kind of supplement to daily life.   If you look over the shoulder of the mildest man in the railway carriage, you will find he is reading the bloodiest novel.  The milder the man, the bloodier the novel- and as for maiden ladies-!  Any particular tough-looking individual, with overseas tan still on his skin, is probably reading a gardening paper.”

Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm  Comments (25)  
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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I laughed at #4.

    Re #3 and #6: I’ve always thought the urge to write (as well as read) comes from a deep dissatisfaction with the world, or at least one’s own world.

  2. Edward,

    I cracked up at #4 too.

    Regarding number three and six- I think it depends on the individual. Strangely, I tend to write about dark subjects… yet I write with joy in my heart. It’s probably the mix of Rising Scorpio and Sun Leo/Moon Sag in me. I’m such a mix of lightness and darkness.

    I think in everyday life I’m happy-go-lucky because I get all the dark stuff out on paper. But yeah, even when I write the dark stuff, I’m having fun. My ghost novel is more in the lines of the classic Gothic soap Dark Shadows than something heavy like Poe.

  3. I think there’s a lot of truth in #6 😉 As they say, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for!

  4. Now, now…DD. I happen to be extremely taciturn, myself. And I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Here, have a freshly baked brownie. And this tall glass of milk. It’ll help you sleep.

    I did work in a bookstore for a few years. And let me tell you the “sweet little old ladies” bought two kinds of books by the truckload: bodice-rippers and true-life crime novels of serial killers. They kept our store in business, I tell ya.

  5. Oh heck, I’m one of the quiet ones meself 😉

    Brownies, don’t mind if I do… my, I’m getting awfully sleepy… zzzzzzzzzzzz

  6. I laughed at #4 too as well as at #5 and #6. Pretty shrewd observations on life. I read a book on psychology once that said we see in others the same qualities we see in ourselves but we look for in others what we sense lacking in us. Did that make sense? #6 would bear testimony to this if it’s true.

  7. Loved these! (And #4 is classic.)

  8. Venus,

    That makes a *lot* of sense.

  9. Ink,

    And to think #4 annoyed her back in 1938. I think her head would explode nowadays. Of course, as she points out in #3- a lot of male writers are wretched at writing real women. Too many writers seem concerned with making the love interest beautiful/handsome fantasies rather than human beings.

  10. I love these quotes. They might have been written in 1938, but they are oh so applicable today as well.

    “A restraint has to be observed in the emotional passages lest the blight of self-pity appear on the hero.”

    In other words, don’t let the characters angst. A little of that can go a surprisingly long way. Besides, if your character’s feeling sorry for himself, the readers don’t need to do the same.

    And #4 made me laugh. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Amen to number 4…double amen, in fact!

  12. Hi Marian,


  13. Colby,

    heh heh. Sounds like you’re still in your Sound of Music “habit”. 🙂

  14. These are *awesome*. 😀

  15. glad you liked them, Amy. 🙂

  16. Great quotes. I liked #1 a lot.

  17. #1: There does have to be something to like or admire about the main character. They can have faults, but there has to be, IMO, something that draws the reader to the character and make them care. And, no, I’ve never read The Sea Princess, so I don’t know how horrible her characters were.

    #2: I like writing in first person, I think I do it well, but it’s very limiting. It can be a big burden to only be able to write what the main character sees.

    #4: Be still my foolish heart!!

    Nice post!

  18. Jenna,

    I like #1 a lot, too.

  19. Hi Jglane,

    Regarding #1- I’ve never needed my characters to be likeable or even good people. Some of the most intriguing characters aren’t. I do agree with you wholeheartedly that there has to be something that draws you to the character and makes you care what happens to them. For me, that has always stemmed from making them interesting and believable. Even if one doesn’t agree with the choices a character makes, a writer needs make the reader understand *why*.

    Dion’s characters aren’t horrible people. They just tend to be cold and distant. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what happens to them. Now *that* is probably my number one reason for putting down any novel. If I don’t care what happens to the main character (whether they be good, bad, or in between), what is the point? But I made the acception here because her novels really aren’t about the plot or characters, but her ideas on the occult sciences.

  20. Interesting. In real life, I’m the person who tries to keep the peace, moderate the disputes, make everybody as happy as possible; I detest conflict and worry too much about what people think. I love reading thrillers. My heroine in one of my novels is this kick ass gal who doesn’t really give a damn what anybody thinks, and she is the embodiment of the evil little voice in the back of my head that I’m always suppressing. She does and says the things that I only think. A friend of mine just read the book and said “you have a dark and twisted imagination.” And then added, “and I love it.” I suppose fiction is our way of channeling our shadows.

  21. #6–I like ’em bloody and rare.

  22. Hey Uppington!

    I’m often the peacekeeper, too. I think a lot of people get way too upset, way too easily. Me- I save my energy for when it’s really needed. I don’t get mad easily, but when I do… RUN! 😉

  23. Nancy,

    I suspected that of ya. 😉

  24. Her head most definitely would spin around, at the very least! 🙂

    I love your new avatar, btw.

  25. Thanks, Ink!

    Watching several Myrna Loy flicks on youtube had an affect. 🙂

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