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The Ruling Passion; tales of nature and human nature by Henry Van Dyke
page 3 of 198 (01%)
way and winds are contrary, then things happen, characters emerge,
slight events are significant, mere adventures are transformed into
a real plot. What care I how many "hair-breadth 'scapes" and
"moving accidents" your hero may pass through, unless I know him for
a man? He is but a puppet strung on wires. His kisses are wooden
and his wounds bleed sawdust. There is nothing about him to
remember except his name, and perhaps a bit of dialect. Kill him or
crown him,--what difference does it make?

But go the other way about your work:

"Take the least man of all mankind, as I;
Look at his head and heart, find how and why
He differs from his fellows utterly,"--

and now there is something to tell, with a meaning.

If you tell it at length, it is a novel,--a painting. If you tell
it in brief, it is a short story,--an etching. But the subject is
always the same: the unseen, mysterious, ruling passion weaving the
stuff of human nature into patterns wherein the soul is imaged and

To tell about some of these ruling passions, simply, clearly, and
concretely, is what I want to do in this book. The characters are
chosen, for the most part, among plain people, because their
feelings are expressed with fewer words and greater truth, not being
costumed for social effect. The scene is laid on Nature's stage
because I like to be out-of-doors, even when I am trying to think
and learning to write.
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