Thursday, 4 October 2018
Learning from the Experts
Writers, especially writers of fiction long and short, sometimes have trouble getting their story structured so it makes the best sense, the most interesting read and yet becomes something fresh. In fact, structuring fiction is an elastic technique that can stretch story into new shapes.
One of my favourite authors, David Mitchell, is a ‘structure Titan’, taking the way a novel works and starting from scratch, approaching storytelling with innovation. In a single book he can span the geographical and historical world, chop stories in half then join them together again, invite in characters from previous novels, and catch his reader out with shocks and surprise twists in books like Cloud Atlas,(Sceptre, 2004) which consists of six interlocking short stories spanning 500 years, each narrative breaking off suddenly at the half-way point before moving on to the next half-tale.
Mitchell has won a bookcase full of awards, including two Bookers and the Costa Novel prize and now, the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. On October 6th he’ll be at the Cheltenham Festival in conversation with Peter Kemp, and as a taster of what we can expect if we manage to get a ticket for that event, he was interviewed by Francesca Angelini for the Sunday Times, in which he revealed what she described as ‘his literary ticks and tricks’.
I've just written a blogpost for We Are the OCA blogsite, to encourage my students to experiment like the experts, passing on five of his writing tips.