Nov 9, 2016

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 4

This week we talked about character and structure in immersion. A lot of the videos were the same as last year, but no worries, still interesting.

Author Leslie Jamison talked about world-building and using a world glossary, with the idea that you can pick elements of your world and let your mind play with the possibilities, even if you're not writing speculative fiction. She also talked about how it's important to create the physical world but also the emotional world, to view the world through the lens of your character's moods, memories, and feelings. The aim is to make your world almost a character of its own. I think this also has to do with specificity, as in which details are important at that time, in that place of mind, to that particular character.

Russian fiction writer Alisa Ganieva spoke to us about using an orchestra of voices. In her novel The Mountain and the Wall, she used multiple voices to create a tapestry. This involved crowd scenes and  disagreements, gossip and rumours, but also clippings of newspapers and letters written by the characters, a kind of collage style. There is also an orchestra of language in the book, with so many different characters. But the thing I liked was that she also emphasised the power of silence.

Shenaz Patel, author of the novel Sensitive, talked about the writer as god, in the sense that when you're writing, you get to decide what happens to the characters: you can save them or abandon them to their doom. When writing her novel, she struggled with deciding the character's fate. She wanted to save her, because she was attached to the character, but in the real world the character would have been lost. She decided to write the more realistic ending, because she believes that books can change people and change the world, and that maybe this kind of ending would affect the way people saw similar girls as the main character in her story. She also talked about the importance of research, but also about the importance of knowing when to put that aside so the voice of the novel can come through.

Naomi Jackson talked to us about researching her novel The Star Side of Bird Hill last year, too, and  we got a quick replay of that. She told us abut the importance of research and actually having the experiences your character has, if possible, and about that "purposeful inquisitiveness" that you should embrace when doing research, so learning about a culture, for example, with the purpose of using the information in your book. She also talked about researching language and speech patterns, because even one word can take the reader out of the story. (No pressure. Thank the gods for beta readers!) She also reminded us that it's important to use all your senses when doing research to help your setting come to life, and that you can do research without travelling. It involves maps, magazines, period accounts, and lots of googling.

This week's assignment had us write a scene where something has happened that changed the setting, and to write an immersive scene that shows the world before and after it changed.

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