What struck me was that whether we were talking about getting your work published, getting the clothes you’ve designed sold, or getting the dance production you’ve devised off the ground, the similarities across fields are striking.
I lecture part-time at Newcastle University, and in starting this night I was responding to a need I had picked up from my students- for an opportunity for them share work in progress. During my teaching I was struck by how many talented students were slaving away at novels- or saving up short stories for publication, but they seemed to hit an invisible buffer at some point. They expressed a desperate need to get published but felt unable to send their work off out into the world.
OCA tutor Guy Mankowski’s ten tips to (hopefully) improve your sentences.
In this blog I will turn to some literary examples of how some form of art, within another form of art (writing) can reveal our characters in a similarly deep way. Perhaps because art speaks to us on so many levels that it can offer such a fundamental insight to a character, by showing us what type of stimulus this specific character responds to.
I often use the analogy of the ‘scale’ of a character in teaching. In this metaphor, a good storyteller penetrates the layers of a character right from the very top of their scale (that is in terms of their surface features, or what we would see about this character if we first meet them) right down to the bottom of their scale (which is their ‘core’).
The author event. That mercurial entity where the audience expects magic from the author and the author somehow expects…well if not magic then what? Some kind of sense of connection with an audience? An audience they would otherwise experience only through Amazon reviews?
Usually when a novel comes out I have found you have about six weeks. Then (unless there is some unexpected surprise further down the line) a subtle but pronounced fade in the attention your book gets. For my last novel, An Honest Deceit, it has happily been a different experience.
How do you end your story?
Unfortunately for me, this is a subject which has been a painful one to address this month! I have long preached to my students on how to end a story, and the two key components that I think need to be in place in order for an ending to feel final. But having this week – after seven years – finished a novel that was supposed to be my first I realise I had been overlooking a third component for how to end a story.
Personally, I think it’s not a question of how much description, but what description is offered by the author, to help the reader imagine a living and breathing world they can really immerse themselves in.
In the first part of this blog I offered five tips to help the beginner writer come across as more advanced than they actually are. From establishing the gender of your protagonist, where they are in the setting, their Point of View and then keeping the story moving I reflected on a few key components. So now I’ll resume…
Part of my job as a tutor is to look at some of the first creative writing people have shared with another person. It is a part of the job I relish, and I think it important to meet people’s first shared work with positivity and enthusiasm – where possible. I think it takes real guts to express yourself on the page and then offer it up to other people for feedback.
The science fiction author JG Ballard (most famous for his novel Crash) was adept at making the most of the settings of his novels. They even managed to offer psychological insights into his characters. I therefore think that the settings of his stories are useful to look at as a case study – they were certainly influential on my writing.