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.