Annie On Writing

July 24, 2012

Behind every Great Novelist

Filed under: Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 11:28 pm

One of the most important foundation pieces of advice on how to start to write, suggests that the writer begins with what they know. Lesser known is the idea that behind every great piece of fiction is naked truth. There is a large proportion of writers who weave thinly disguised autobiographies into their novels. Other writers say that they reveal nothing about their lives or beliefs within their stories, suggesting it would be a breach of their families privacy to do so.

So which type of writer is right?

Illustrator Grant Snider published this wry poke at authors on his website recently, and I felt it needed to be shared and be part of a discussion on our perceptions on what and who a writer is.

Many aspiring writers shy away from committing observations on their everyday life as its often perceived that other people’s lives are more interesting, that nothing much of importance happens to them, or that they haven’t had a tortured or heartbreaking experience, which will magically transform them into some sort of literary great.

One of my favourite writers, Mr Hemingway is famed for his lonely lifestyle choices and was reported to saying

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. “

However, we don’t all need to be Ernest Hemingway to be a writer. His words support the notion of the mythical life of an artist – whether they are hands on creative producers of artwork, actors or drawn to the literary stream. Generally depicted as moody, emotionally fragile creatures, they wander the outskirts of society, unappreciated and misunderstood. This stereotypical existence to some point is maintained and upheld by the same people who fight for individualism and self expression and present a barrier for anyone who would like to join the artistic ranks, but are too frightened to begin.
While good writing is subjective, it is generally accepted that it is a mix of an authentic writers voice, originality and passion with an observance to correct grammatical structure. The foundation for most fiction lays in strong characters. Grant Snider’s cartoon highlights some perceptions on where writers can find the inspiration for characters.

There are two main schools of thought within character creation within acting, which can be modified to be utilised within writing. Character development utilises a planned strategy, exploring motivation and reactions based on answers that character may give from a myriad of questions. Method Acting, best known as the Stanislavsky system, is a series of techniques used to encourage actors to draw on their experiences and emotional bank, to produce authentic and believable performances.

Writers who employ the Stanislavsky system would follow the suggestions Grant Snider illustrates in his cartoon, drawing upon their own experiences to produce characters and plots.

Writers who feel more confident with a structured plan to produce plot and characters aren’t necessarily restricted to drawing on their own experiences, but may employ research, interviewing and observation.

Regardless to which school of thought you feel you belong to when you are creating characters and world building, your experiences, perceptions and beliefs will always influence your writers voice.

Whilst its true that writers gain their inspiration from a myriad of venues including their surroundings and experiences, without the knowledge of structure, theme and creating characters an audience will identify with, a writer cannot hope to improve their craft or engage their readers.

Cartoon by Grant Snider who publishes his awesome work on Incidental Comics

Out of interest… how many of these “character building moments” have you experienced?


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