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Fiction Writing

Ayn Rand

Presented at: Ayn Rand's Fiction Writing Seminars

Date: Jan 01, 1958

In 1958, the year after Atlas Shrugged was published, a small group of aspiring writers and fiction lovers gathered in Ayn Rand’s living room for an informal course on literature. Speaking extemporaneously from just a few handwritten notes, the best-selling author discussed the creation and appreciation of literature in twelve recorded sessions. 

Illustrating her points with passages from authors such as Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, Mickey Spillane, and Victor Hugo—plus her own novels—Rand strove to demystify the creative process, offering practical advice to aspiring authors on such topics as developing plot conflicts, creating characters, uniting action with a broader theme, developing one’s own voice, and avoiding writer’s block.

To help avid readers enhance their enjoyment of fiction, Rand offered illustrative (and entertaining) rewrites of scenes from her own works. She also highlighted contrasts among authors by comparing their depictions of nature and of New York City, discussing differences in tone, approach, theme, meaning and style. In addition, she discussed how to identify the feelings evoked by a story and explained how such effects are achieved. 

These are the original lectures on which The Art of Fiction and parts of The Romantic Manifesto are based. The following list contains topic highlights from the twelve sessions:

1. Creative Writing. Problems of the creative writer. “Inspiration.” Writer’s block or “squirms.” Journalism vs. fiction. A novel’s four attributes. 

 2. Naturalism and Romanticism in Literature. Precision in language. How philosophy influences a writer. Free will and value-orientation vs. determinism (with discussions of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Hugo and O. Henry). Romantic Realism.  

3. Plot and Theme.  Plot and theme in the novels of Ayn Rand, Margaret Mitchell, Victor Hugo and other writers. Plot vs. saga.  Final vs. efficient causation.  

4-5. Plot Structure.  The essential role of conflict in plot. The essence of plot structure: development and climax with detailed analysis of Miss Rand’s own novels. How to achieve suspense. Creating a plot by starting with the climax.  

5A. Plot Structure.  The nature of conflict. The relation among choice, conflict and values. How to construct (and improve) a plot starting from scratch. Drama vs. melodrama. Plot and mind-body integration.  

6-7. Characterization.  Dramatization and narration. Characterization through action and dialogue. The implications of dialogue. The essential role of artistic selectivity. Romanticist vs. Naturalist motivation.The Fountainhead vs. Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis..

8-10. Style Through an Analysis of Literature.  Style as the selection of content and language. “Form follows function” in literature. A detailed stylistic analysis of contrasting love scenes, ofdescriptions of nature and of New York City from a wide variety of writers (excerpts included in the download). How to achieve emotional intensity. The role of imagery. Connotation and denotation. Overwriting. Judging an author’s philosophy from his style.  

11-12. Style.  Further aspects. Levels of meaning. Stylistic economy. Dialogue in relation to style. Transitions, exposition, flashbacks. Metaphors. The use of slang. The novel, the short story and the play. Humor, science fiction, fairy tales, horror stories, fantasy; tragedy.

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Parts: 12

Handout: none


  • e-Store, 2012 (En) - 1381 mins
  • Print, 2000 (En)
  • Tape, 1994 (En) - By Second Renaissance Books. Vol 1, lectures 1-7, Vol 2, lectures 8-12
  • Campus, 2021 (En) - 1354 mins