Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 4)

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Here concludes a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Annie Dillard: The Art of the Essay and Narrative Nonfiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories

    “Writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past.”

  2. C.S. Lewis: The 3 Ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing

    “The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”

  3. Nietzsche: 10 Rules for Writers

    “Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.”

  4. William Faulkner: Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create

    “It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”

  5. David Foster Wallace: The Redemptive Power of Reading and the Future of Writing in the Age of Information

    The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”

  6. Zadie Smith: The Psychology of the Two Types of Writers

    “It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

  7. George Orwell: Writing, How to Counter the Mindless Momentum of Language, and the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself

    “By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”

  8. Italo Calvino: The Art of Quickness, Digression as a Hedge Against Death, and the Key to Great Writing

    “Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search… for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.”

  9. Ursula K. Le Guin: Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work

    “All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.”

  10. Gabriel García Márquez on His Unlikely Beginnings as a Writer

    “If you’re going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones… After all, there are better ways to starve to death.”

  11. Roald Dahl: How Illness Emboldens Creativity: A Moving Letter to His Bedridden Mentor

    “I doubt I would have written a line … unless some minor tragedy had sort of twisted my mind out of the normal rut.”

  12. Robert Frost: How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay

    “The sidelong glance is what you depend on.”

  13. Lewis Carroll: How to Work Through Difficulty and His Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block

    “When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”

  14. Mark Strand: The Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe

    “It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”

  15. John Steinbeck: The Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work

    “Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”

  16. E.B. White: How to Write for Children and the Writer’s Responsibility to All Audiences

    “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”

  17. Virginia Woolf: Writing and Self-Doubt

    Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

  18. Cheryl Strayed: Faith, Humility, and the Art of Motherfuckitude

    “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

  19. Ann Patchett: Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art

    “The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.”

  20. Umberto Eco’s Advice to Writers

    “If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will…

  21. Grace Paley: The Value of Not Understanding Everything

    “Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.”

  22. Jane Kenyon: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By

    “Be a good steward of your gifts.”

  23. Joseph Conrad on Art and What Makes a Great Writer, in a Beautiful Tribute to Henry James

    “All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind.”

  24. How to Save Your Soul: Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity, Selling Out, and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer

    “It’s so foolish to live (which is always trouble enough) and not to save your soul. It’s so foolish to lose your real pleasures for the supposed pleasures of the chase — or the stock exchange.”

  25. Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers

    “In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”

  26. James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing

    “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”

  27. Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience

    “It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”

  28. Elizabeth Alexander on Writing, the Ethic of Love, Language as a Vehicle for the Self, and the Inherent Poetry of Personhood

    “You have to tell your own story simultaneously as you hear and respond to the stories of others.”

  29. Can Goodness Win? George Saunders on Writing, the Artist’s Task, and the Importance of Living with Opposing Truths

    “See how long you can stay in that space, where both things are true… That’s a great place to try to be.”

***

This concludes Part 4, I hope you enjoyed reading and learned something valuable to take away and apply to your writing.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 3)

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Here continues a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview

    “We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”

  2. Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication

    Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.

  3. How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors

    “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”

  4. Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown

    “No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”

  5. Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling

    “I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”

  6. Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

    “Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

  7. William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life

    “The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”

  8. Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook

    “It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”

  9. John Updike: Writing and Death

    “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”

  10. Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity

    “Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”

  11. Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity

    The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.

  12. Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have

    “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”

  13. Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection

    “Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”

  14. Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life

    “A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”

  15. William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart

    “The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”

  16. John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know

    “In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”

  17. Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives

    “To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”

  18. Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society

    The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.

  19. Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting

    “The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”

  20. Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors

    How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.

  21. Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art

    On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.

  22. Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times

    “The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”

  23. Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer

    “My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”

  24. William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers

    “For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”

  25. Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books

    “We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”

  26. Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time

    “The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”

  27. Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive

    “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

  28. Schopenhauer on Style

    “Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”

  29. Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading

    “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”

***

This concludes Part 3, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 4.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 2)

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Here continues a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style and the 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word (1985)

    “The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”

  2. Ann Patchett: What Now?

    “Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”

  3. Mary Gordon: The Joy of Notebooks and Writing by Hand as a Creative Catalyst

    “However thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”

  4. H. P. Lovecraft: Advice to Aspiring Writers (1920)

    “A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.”

  5. Henry Miller: Reflections on Writing

    “Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”

  6. Margaret Atwood: 10 Rules of Writing

    “­Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.”

  7. David Foster Wallace: The Nature of the Fun and Why Writers Write

    “Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.”

  8. Joy Williams: Why Writers Write

    “A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”

  9. Joan Didion: Ego, Grammar, and the Impetus to Write

    “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”

  10. David Ogilvy: 10 No-Bullshit Tips on Writing

    “Never write more than two pages on any subject.”

  11. George Orwell: The Four Motives for Writing (1946)

    “Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”

  12. Ezra Pound: A Few Don’ts for Those Beginning to Write Verse (1913)

    “Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.”

  13. Ray Bradbury: Storytelling and Human Nature (1963)

    “Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”

  14. Joseph Conrad: Writing and the Role of the Artist (1897)

    “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.”

  15. Helen Dunmore: 9 Rules of Writing

    “A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.”

  16. E. B. White: The Role and Responsibility of the Writer (1969)

    “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

  17. Jack Kerouac: 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life

    “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.”

  18. Raymond Chandler on Writing

    “The test of a writer is whether you want to read him again years after he should by the rules be dated.”

  19. Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

    “The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.”

  20. 28-Year-Old Susan Sontag on the Four People a Great Writer Must Be

    “A great writer has all 4 — but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2.”

  21. 10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates

    “Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader — or any reader. He/she might exist — but is reading someone else.”

  22. Neil Gaiman: 8 Rules of Writing

    “Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

  23. Anaïs Nin: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity

    “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

  24. Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

    “You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”

  25. Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews

    “A writer’s work is the product of laziness.”

  26. Herbert Spencer: The Philosophy of Style, the Economy of Attention, and the Ideal Writer (1852)

    “To have a specific style is to be poor in speech.”

  27. Charles Bukowski on Writing and His Insane Daily Routine

    “Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”

  28. Samuel Johnson on Writing and Creative Doggedness

    “Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”

  29. Edgar Allan Poe: The Joy of Marginalia and What Handwriting Reveals about Character

    “In the marginalia … we talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly — boldly — originally — with abandonment — without conceit.”

***

This concludes Part 2, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 3.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 1)

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Here is a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

There are so many great pieces that I have split them down into four more manageable parts, which I will be sharing with you over the next few days.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers

    “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

  2. The Effortless Effort of Creativity: Jane Hirshfield on Storytelling, the Art of Concentration, and Difficulty as a Consecrating Force of Creative Attention

    “In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”

  3. Ted Hughes on How to Be a Writer: A Letter of Advice to His 18-Year-Old Daughter

    “The first sign of disintegration — in a writer — is that the writing loses the unique stamp of his/her character, & loses its inner light.”

  4. Colette on Writing, the Blissful Obsessive-Compulsiveness of Creative Work, and Withstanding Naysayers

    “A lack of money, if it be relative, and a lack of comfort can be endured if one is sustained by pride. But not the need to be astounded.”

  5. Auden on Writing, Originality, Self-Criticism, and How to Be a Good Reader

    “It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”

  6. Stephen King: Writing and the Art of “Creative Sleep”:

    “In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

  7. Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

    “If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.”

  8. Michael Lewis: Writing, Money, and the Necessary Self-Delusion of Creativity

    “When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”

  9. Annie Dillard on Writing

    “At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”

  10. Susan Sontag on Writing

    “There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.”

  11. Ray Bradbury: How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity

    How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.

  12. Anne Lamott: Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

    “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

  13. Italo Calvino on Writing: Insights from 40+ Years of His Letters

    “To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”

  14. Ernest Hemingway : Writing, Knowledge, and the Danger of Ego

    “All bad writers are in love with the epic.”

  15. David Foster Wallace: Writing, Death, and Redemption

    “You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”

  16. Isabel Allende: Writing Brings Order to the Chaos of Life

    “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”

  17. Stephen King: The Adverb Is Not Your Friend

    “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

  18. Malcolm Cowley: The Four Stages of Writing

    “The germ of a story is a new and simple element introduced into an existing situation or mood.”

  19. Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing

    “Work on one thing at a time until finished.”

  20. Advice on Writing: Collected Wisdom from Modernity’s Greatest Writers

    “Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.”

  21. Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules for a Great Story

    “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

  22. Susan Orlean on Writing

    “You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”

  23. Zadie Smith: 10 Rules of Writing

    “Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”

  24. John Steinbeck: 6 Tips on Writing, and a Disclaimer

    “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”

  25. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Secret of Great Writing (1938)

    “Nothing any good isn’t hard.”

  26. E. B. White: Egoism and the Art of the Essay

    “Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays”

  27. E. B. White: Why Brevity Is Not the Gold Standard for Style

    “Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.”

  28. Ray Bradbury: Creative Purpose in the Face of Rejection

    “The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”

  29. Mary Karr: The Magnetism and Madness of the Written Word

    “Be willing to be a child and be the Lilliputian in the world of Gulliver.”

***

This concludes Part 1, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/

Guide To World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi And Real-Life Worlds

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World-building is so much more than just a framing device. It’s the very essence of any good fantasy or science fiction story, and the basis of a sense of place in other genres. Good world-building lends an immersive richness to your writing, while also giving readers the information they need to understand characters and plot lines.

So, how exactly should writers go about building worlds in their fiction? To find out, we’ll break down the concept of world-building into three main categories:

  • Imaginary worlds – the construction of entirely fictional universes, found primarily in fantasy genres.
  • Alternate reality – re-imaginings of the details of our existing world; popular with writers of science fiction.
  • Actual locations – the invocation of a real place in the world, utilised in novels with no elements of the fantastic.

Let’s begin by entering the wondrous realm of fantasy fiction.

IMAGINARY WORLDS

Creating an imaginary world is one of the most complex types of world-building. It’s most often utilised in fantasy and science fiction, where a writer conjures up from scratch every detail of a world: geography, history, language, lore, characters, social customs, politics, religion…

Understandably, the thought of creating all these elements to form an entire fictional world can be very daunting – and deciding where to start can seem almost impossible! For inspiration, we recommend turning to some of the great world-builders of our time to see how they’ve built up whole universes from nothing.

Deciding on a starting point

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit and countless other classic works, began the development of Middle-earth in an unusual way: by first creating an entire fictional language to be spoken by his characters. A professional philologist and talented linguist, Tolkien developed the Elvish language of Quenya, using it as a base for expanding his imaginary world into the vast, detailed, lore-rich Middle-earth we know today.

Of course, not all writers will be capable of (or interested in) creating a functional, fictional language – but budding world-builders can still follow Tolkien’s lead in order to get started. By pinpointing one aspect of your imaginary world that you’re most interested in or most apt at developing, you’ve got yourself a great starting point. Work hard on this element first, and then concentrate on building up and fleshing out from there. You’ll find that the pieces of your world fall much more easily into place once you have a solid foundation from which to expand.

Asking questions about your world

After you’ve got the ball rolling by establishing a starting point, you’ll need to begin working out the details that make up a convincing, consistent imaginary world. A great way to start doing this is to ask (and answer) a set of questions pertaining to the different aspects of your world.

Approach this exercise as if you were describing your home country to someone who knows nothing about it – or, on a larger scale, as if you were introducing Earth to someone from an alien race. How would you explain:

  • What it looks and feels like – its landscapes, its climate?
  • Its people – their appearance, customs, ethics and values?
  • The dominant forces that shape change and development?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the potential details you need to cover, it’s advisable to start by creating a list of fundamental questions you need to answer about your world. Many online resources, such as this list from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, contain suggested questions about everything from social organisation and government to the rules of magic and technology. (The latter of these is particularly important to keep in mind. Even though your world may be an entirely imaginary one filled with magic or made-up technology, it must still be governed consistently and carefully by the internal logic and laws you set up for it. Its fantastical nature cannot be used as an excuse for lapses in continuity.)

After devising your list, you may feel even more overwhelmed now you have such an expansive range of questions to answer! If this is the case, take a step back and make sure that all the questions you’ve listed really need to be covered. It’s likely that some questions may not apply to or directly affect your characters and narrative, so decide which aspects are most crucial to the stories you want to tell within your world, and focus on answering the most relevant questions.

While you’re answering these world-building questions largely for the benefit of your readers, it’s imperative to keep in mind the age-old advice about showing, not telling. You don’t want readers to feel like they’re simply being spoon-fed a bunch of facts, details and history. The most successful storytelling comes from a subtle, nuanced approach to building your world through narrative detail, description and development.

Drawing inspiration from real life

Even though imagining an entirely new world is one of the most creative processes a writer can undertake, it’s almost impossible to create something entirely from nothing. Naturally – even if only subconsciously – you will adapt and incorporate some real-world elements into your imaginary setting and story, using them as a base of inspiration.

A well-known fantasy epic with strong undertones of historical influence is George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin openly acknowledges the fact that many elements of ASOIAF are inspired by real historical events and locations: the Wars of the Roses, the Glencoe Massacre and Hadrian’s Wall, to name just a few.

If you feel your world is lacking in depth or credibility, perhaps take a leaf from Mr. Martin’s (extremely long) book and delve into some real-world history for inspiration. You may be able to flesh out your world by moulding, adapting or drawing parallels with real-life locations, landmarks, pivotal events, or even historical personalities.

Where reality and fantasy collide

An interesting way to provide contrast or conflict within your story is by developing your fictional world alongside, or within, an established location – for example, right here on Earth. Perhaps the most famous example of this reality/fantasy cross-over is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which involves an entirely made-up world of magic that’s hidden away on modern-day Earth. Harry himself, as the main character from whose point of view the story is presented, is as much a stranger to this world as readers are in the beginning. We’re introduced firsthand to every person, place, detail and experience right alongside Harry; as he journeys into this magical new world and has his questions answered, so, too, do we as readers.

As well as adding depth and relatability to your story, such a setting also poses questions about the concept of an alternate reality. Let’s now look at this concept in more detail.

ALTERNATE REALITY

Similar to the creation of an imaginary world, but slightly less demanding due to the existing base you have to work with, the construction of an alternate reality is a type of world-building often found in dystopian, speculative and science fiction. By creating an alternate reality, you are developing an alternative version of our own Earth, imagining how things could be different and posing questions about what these differences would mean for humanity. Authors often use this style of writing to express their thoughts about the flaws of humanity and today’s world, exploring the consequences these flaws may have to potential to produce.

What if?

As a writer imagining an alternate reality, the most important question you can ask is ‘What if?’ This is the base-level query on which your story’s entire premise should be founded, and upon which you will build the individual elements of your world. For example:

  • What if a particular, important historical event had never happened?
  • What if our planet and its inhabitants had evolved differently?
  • What if a fundamental aspect of life as we know it was to change suddenly?
  • What if we invented new technology that could accomplish wonderful/terrible things?
  • What if we could visit or communicate with other life forms (or vice versa)?

These are the type of questions you should be asking as you develop the differences between your world and the real world. They are the essence of the changes, challenges and consequences you should examine through your alternate setting, its characters and their narrative.

Belief and disbelief

A key difference between creating an alternate reality and creating an imaginary world is the suspension of disbelief you can expect from your readers. The imaginary worlds of fantasy and science fiction we examined above – Westeros and Essos, the kingdoms of Middle-earth – imagine an entirely new world, quite unrelated to our own. Due to this complete removal from reality, readers automatically enter with a higher level of tolerance for things that may otherwise have jarred the story’s logic or lifted them out of the moment. Readers would never think to question, for example, the fact that a single magic ring has the power to rule the world; they’re also less likely to query the fact that a teenage girl is slowly conquering a kingdom when there are dragons involved in the equation!

In alternate reality fiction, however, you may have to work a little harder to draw readers deep into your world – and keep them there. The slightly familiar settings, warped realities and semi-relatable human scenarios presented in this type of storytelling will heighten readers’ senses of what’s believable and what’s not. Therefore, you’ll need to convince them that everything happening in your story is a realistic possibility for the Earth on which it is based. Let’s look at some of the best ways to achieve this.

Past, present or future?

One of the best ways to begin establishing your alternate reality is by clarifying the time period in which you want it to be set. When will your story take place in relation to the real world? Is it:

Each of these approaches has its own advantages and benefits, and each lends itself well to different purposes. You’ll need to decide which of these settings best serves the particular story you want to tell.

If you choose to rewrite the past, you are employing the gift of hindsight to imagine what could have been; think of it as alternate reality historical fiction, if you will. A well-known example is sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which explores our world ‘as it might have been’ if the outcome of World War II had been different. Likewise, the majority of volumes in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series take place in an alternative 1985, where England and Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for over a century. Not restricted to reimaginings of definitive wartime conflicts, however, this method of storytelling is also a popular vehicle for stories about time travel; H. G. Wells’ pivotal novel The Time Machine and more recent books such as Stephen King’s 11/22/63 are great examples of time-travel tropes used effectively to explore alternate realities.

Stories set in the present, on the other hand, have an element of immediacy and can be more easily related to by the reader. This type of story can often be considered similar to those that rewrite the past, as it often imagines drastically altered historical events preceding its own setting. However, the main difference is that present-day stories focus solely on portraying of an alternate version of today’s world, rather than rewriting the history that has come before. As we mentioned above, the Harry Potter series, while primarily a fantasy, might also be considered an alternate reality; it takes place on Earth, in the modern-day U.K., but is largely set within a magical world that lies hidden within our own. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia employ similar settings of an unknown world-within-a-world.

Finally, imagining the future can serve as a warning or projection of what might be to come if the present-day world does not change its ways. George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, is a classic example of this; published in 1949, it leaps almost 40 years into the future to make bold extrapolations about the potential dangers of politics and technology. Similarly, Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, as well as Aldous Huxley’s esteemed 1931 novel Brave New World, both pose questions about the demoralisation of the human race, depicting the type of scenario that could be in store for our future.

Know your building blocks

In order to portray a compelling alternate version of the world, you must first be well-versed in the facts of the real version. Whether you’re setting your alternate reality in a real-world location or reimagining a history event, learn all you can about its real counterpart and incorporate your knowledge into your new interpretation.

As mentioned above, Orwell’s 1984 is perhaps the most well-known example of a novel exploring an alternate reality. On the surface, it’s a story about an alien-sounding, utilitarian nation that’s as far removed as possible from the Earth we knew in 1984. However, when we look a little deeper (as most of us were forced to do as high school English students), the meaningful real-world allegories Orwell is drawing – Soviet Union politics, life in wartime Britain – become all too clear. It’s obvious he really knew his stuff before bringing to life his alternate futuristic vision.

The end of the world as we know it

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction has seen a meteoric rise in recent years, especially in the young adult sub-genre. The Hunger Games trilogy, perhaps the most popular of the bunch, has spawned a plethora of YA novels set in reimagined versions of Earth, and it’s easy to see why. Imagining a global-scale apocalyptic event gives you the freedom to predict how humanity might rebuild itself after such a disaster – a meaty subject to tackle.

A key decision to be made when writing in this genre is how you will treat the apocalyptic event itself. The most common choice is to set the narrative after the event and describe its consequences (hence ‘post-apocalyptic fiction’ becoming a well-known genre in itself).

Series such as the Hunger Games and Maze Runner trilogies, as well as standalone novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Richard Matheson’s much-adapted I Am Legend, choose the post-apocalyptic path. I Am Legend and the Maze Runner books allude to a deadly global pandemic, while The Hunger Games and The Road both choose not to disclose the manner of the cataclysm that preceded their events. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if clarifying the apocalyptic event is necessary by considering the ways it could benefit or detract from your story.

Despite the prevalence of the post-apocalyptic approach, remember that you also have the option to portray the actual details of the global catastrophe as it happens, as well as the series of events leading up to it. If you choose this method of storytelling, you may wish to consult some novels that handle it particularly well, including Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, The Stand by Stephen King and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Now, if you’re not a writer of fantasy or science fiction, by this stage you’re probably wondering whether there’s any point in learning about world-building. Well, we’re here to assure you that there is – so read on!

ACTUAL LOCATIONS

In genres other than science fiction and fantasy, the practice of world-building is more commonly known as creating a sense of place. Place has an important role in every story, and is often used to great effect in literary fiction. In novels with an especially strong sense of place, the setting virtually becomes a character in itself; it embodies, reflects, supports and enhances the narrative at every turn. So how can you build and develop a deep, engrossing and original portrait of an existing location?

Pack your bags

The first piece of advice for anyone wishing to infuse their work with a sense of place is also the most obvious: go to that place! Whenever possible, spending a good amount of time ‘on location’ wherever you’re setting your story is the best thing you can do as a writer. Bonus points if you’re writing about the place in which you’ve grown up or spent the majority of your life; if you know the place inside-out, it’s going to be much easier to paint a convincing and engaging picture for your readers.

The Brontë sisters are a fantastic example of writers drawing on personal influences and surroundings to create a strong sense of place. Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights,interweaves a bleak landscape of English moors so powerfully into her narrative that it practically becomes a definitive character in itself. Charlotte’s best-known work, Jane Eyre, creates a compelling portrait of life at a 19th century English boarding school; along with Anne’s first novel, Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre also explores life as a governess in a noble family (and as a woman in Victorian England). However, the Brontës are by no means the be-all-and-end-all of creating a sense of place – pick up any good novel set in a specific location and you’re sure to pick up some tips.

Do your research

Sometimes – for example, in the case of a novel set 50 years in the past – it’s not possible to have an authentic experience of the place you’re writing about. In this case, you will really need to do your research – and we don’t just mean a bit of Googling, because unfortunately, that won’t quite cut it! You’ll need to delve deeply into the history of the place in any way you can: by watching documentaries, visiting museums, reading books and other literature from the time period – seek out anything you can get your hands on and start absorbing it all. If you can, we also strongly recommend speaking to people who were in that place at the right time; there’s no better source than someone who can tell you all about it from firsthand experience.

Historical fiction books are a good resource for those wishing to write immersive, authentic fiction set in past time periods and real locations. An expansive genre, historical fiction contains a wealth of titles from which to gain inspiration and examples, but a good starting place might be exploring the work of:

  • Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities conjures up particularly vivid images of London and Paris during the French Revolution;
  • Chinua Achebe – a Nigerian author whose African trilogy, especially Things Fall Apart, paints a striking portrait of post-colonial Africa;
  • Philippa Gregory – author of The Other Boleyn Girl, who specialises in British historical fiction that mostly examines the stories of the aristocracy.

Other great titles to investigate include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which takes place in wartime Germany, and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, set in twentieth-century Japan.

Speak with your senses

Building and developing a sense of place is a great excuse to flex your descriptive muscles. But don’t just rely on describing what you see – talk about the sounds, the smells, the feel of your chosen place; the atmosphere and the things that contribute to it; and, perhaps most importantly, the effect the place has on your characters. (On that note, it pays to remember not to get too bogged down in description at the expense of plot and character development. Keep in mind that your invocation of place is ultimately to serve the characters and story within it.)

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After all that, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of effort it takes to build a whole world with words – whether that world is fictional, real or somewhere in between. Our suggestion? Take a well-earned break, make a cup of tea, and set aside your world for now. Tomorrow it will still be there waiting for you, and armed with your new knowledge, you’ll be ready to build it from the ground up.

Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/the-ultimate-guide-to-world-building-how-to-write-fantasy-sci-fi-and-real-life-worlds/

The Sound Of A Memoir | Article

Lyrics-in-novel-article

An interesting and useful article about using song lyrics in your novel. Makes for a very informative read. Enjoy!


Music is great for writing. Pop those headphones in, start up your two-hour Epic Music track or your carefully curated, book-specific playlist, get in your headspace and go go go.

Music is not great for reading. When I edit a manuscript with song lyrics used as epigraphs, or quoted from one character to another, or someone singing along, I have standard cut-and-paste language:

Consider whether these lines are necessary: using song lyrics falls under a specific copyright area that is not subject to fair use, and obtaining permission is tedious and can be difficult and expensive.

The short answer to “What about using some song lyrics in my memoir?” is “You can’t.” To elaborate, songs written after 1923-ish (depending on when you read this blog post) are almost certainly under copyright. The singer or band associated with the song may or may not be the writer(s). Once you google to find the writing credits, you’ll need to track down the publisher through ASCAP or BMI. The publisher does not want to talk to you until you have a publication contract, or specific, written publication plans including where you’ll be selling the book, the cover price, and how many copies you’re printing. Then the publisher bills you.

It can get expensive, Blake Morrison tells the Guardian:

I still have the invoices. For one line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”: £500. For one line of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”: £535. For one line of “When I’m Sixty-four”: £735. For two lines of “I Shot the Sheriff” (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael’s “Fastlove” came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75.

But what about “fair use”?

Fair use is the legal principle allowing us to quote lines or paragraphs from books under copyright. Quotations are fair use if the number of words used is a very small proportion of the total words in the original work; if the quote is properly attributed; and if it’s essential to the point you’re making in your own work. Song lyrics have not yet been held to a “fair use” standard. Arguably, even a line of a song is a fairly large proportion compared to say, 200 words from a 90,000-word novel. But poetry can be fairly used and often is. What makes songs different?

Publishers with deep pockets, excellent legal teams, and a strong precedent of defending their copyrights.

Beyond legal battles, it’s worth it to consider what impact the quoted lyrics will really have in your book. Does your reader associate “Janie’s Got A Gun” with that beautiful night you sat in a convertible, watching the ocean roll in below the hills? Or does she remember her school’s anti-violence initiative that used the literal message of the song? Will readers from another generation even know the song you’re quoting? Will they think of it as “Mom’s music” instead of “pulse-pounding jam”? Writers can’t control how readers react, so we might as well use words we can craft ourselves.

In the Brevity Podcast Episode 8, Geeta Kothari and I discussed using quotes within essays and stories. In her experience as an editor for Kenyon Review, lyrics often pull the reader out of the story on the page and into their own associations with the song. JoBeth McDaniel, from the Rush editorial board, mentions in the same episode that even quoting other non-song writing raises legal issues that editors just don’t want to deal with.

Sure, it’s a great feeling when a single lyric conjures up a world of emotion in our heart. But it’s both uncertain and a bit lazy to expect that line to do the same for every reader. Instead, ask yourself what emotional purpose that song serves, and put that feeling in the setting, in the narrative, in the dialogue. Or obliquely quote in a way that makes knowledge of the original song unnecessary:

He banged his head to Sweet Child O’ Mine and I wished hard I could like Guns N Roses. (Titles are OK!)

On the radio, Springsteen was on fire, singing his creepy lyrics about Daddy not being home.

We rolled down the windows and cranked up the stereo–GooGooDolls, The Cure, KLM, all the music everyone was listening to, the bass throbbing in my chest and making me feel like I was part of everyone.

You’ve got something important to say. Don’t lean on a song to say it for you. Use your words. Use your images. Use your experiences. Trust in your power to create your own music in the reader’s head.

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Via: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/the-sound-of-a-memoir/