The Heart of a Novel: Its “About-ness” – From the Writers in the Storm blog


by Barbara Linn Probst

I’m delighted to join WITS as a regular blogger! Thanks for having me.

We’ve all had that question put to us by friends, relatives, colleagues, and potential readers. It’s a reasonable question.

“It’s the story of a woman who …”

“It tells what happens when …”

But that’s the setup. It’s not what the book is about.

Coined by R.A. Fairthorne in 1969, “aboutness” is a term used in linguistics, philosophy of language, and the informational sciences to convey both the subject and intention of a text. In other words: what is said, and why.

So what’s your book about?

The question can be surprisingly difficult to answer. That’s because we aren’t used to thinking conceptually about our writing. We’re taught how to create stakes, wounds, obstacles, turning points—but those are just landmarks, coordinates, strategies in the service of the book’s aboutness.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

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