On Time & Writing

28 11 2018

                                                                                                    PHOTO; centrum.org

Harnessing The Power Of TimeIn Your Storytelling

About a month ago, riding the train home from work, I looked up and through the window, the sky was low and turning to a dirty purple twilight.

Just before the train and all her tired and distracted passengers started the final narrow stretch to our station, past the smoke stacks of the coal power station and the factory that makes disposable baby nappies, for a few moments I watched thousands of tiny lights that were already on across the suburb below us, forming a shiny cheap-jewellery crust over an area of town houses, the malls, office parks.

It is still winter and where the lights stop, the grass starts and ripples towards the train window: dry, stripped of colour, patches burned black by veld fires.

What does time mean to you?

In those moments, just minutes really, shaken gently from side to side in my seat, between dusk and the lights, as the train rushed breathlessly through the last of the day, I was conscious of time—not as anything artificial and clear as the white digits on the face of an iPhone, but as something moving us all along, me along. Something moving within me, inside of me, even as it moved outside of me.

Time on its own tracks.

That night, coming home from work, time didn’t hold its usual terror for me.  I was content to just be carried along, too exhausted to fight. In many ways, those moments on the train helped me grasp the ‘ungraspable’ nature of time itself: that time is ‘now’, that it is behind us, in front of us, everywhere.  It’s just you moving, being moved, threaded invisibly through time.

It is hard to get your head around ‘time with a capital T’, from the fact that vast millennia existed before us to the idea that it will exist for millennia after us.

Read further @ Writers Write

Writing Advice by a Great Author

3 05 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    PHOTO: aljazeera.com


In the face of the literary world’s ongoing fetish for youth, I often like to remind myself that Gabriel García Márquez didn’t become famous until he was 40. That’s when he published his fourth novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now, of course, he’s a household name, beloved for his storytelling ability and fantastical imagination (though as he’d tell you, everything in his most famous novel happened—somewhere, to someone). García Márquez is a master of storytelling, but he’s also a master of discipline: above all else, he put in the work. For that alone, we should all listen to his advice. So on the anniversary of his death, here is some collected literary wisdom from one of the all-time greats.

Read further @ Literary Hub


Creating Young Characters in Books

1 09 2017



Both Amita Trasi and Cecilia Galante explore difficult issues in their fiction through the experiences of young characters. Galante’s most recent book, The Odds of You and Me, features a young mother grappling with sexism and abuse. Trasi’s recently-published debut novel, The Color of our Sky, follows two childhood friends from entirely different worlds growing up in Mumbai. Below, they discuss how their lived experiences inform their storytelling, what dictates their audiences, and their favorite parts of the creative process. 

Read further @ LiteraryHub


Principles of Storytelling

4 05 2016


3 Crucial Principles Of Storytelling You Can Learn From Kevin Spacey + House Of Cards

So what advice does Francis Underwood have to dish on storytelling? Spacey recommends that before you even begin, it’s important to ask yourself, “What story do you want to tell?” He suggests that everything will fall in line “if you start with what the result is going to be.” Once you get over the initial hurdle of determining what story you want to tell, you have to examine what elements will make this story truly engaging. Spacey goes on to propose three pillars that must be present in every good story.

1. Conflict – “Conflict creates tension and tension keeps people engaged with your story.”

2. Authenticity – “Stay true to your brand and audiences will respond to that authenticity with enthusiasm and passion.”

3. The Audience – “Does it matter what’s behind a link if no one clicks on it?”

Read further @ NewsCred

Infographic: Books with Many Characters

28 02 2016


On the Future of the Novel

5 09 2012

The death of the novel will presage a rebirth of writing

Anxiety about narrative fiction’s survival might be quietened by reflection on how poetry has reinvented itself for changing times

At the Edinburgh International Book festival last August, China Miéville gave the final World Writers’ Conference keynote speech on the future of the novel. The conversation between delegates ebbed and flowed afterwards but one of the most notable remarks came from Jackie Kay, who responded to what she perceived as an atmosphere of gloom about the novel’s survival with bemusement. “Why do novelists so fear the death of the novel?” she asked. “Poets don’t fear the death of the poem.”

There is constant and loud debate about the death of the novel – Will Self was voicing his doubts about it only this week – but far less debate (though not none) about the death of the poem. The true distinction, however, is not between novels and poems, but between poems and storytelling.  The novel is a specific but not fixed form of storytelling, in the same way as the romantic lyric, or the sonnet, is a form of poetry. The two deep patterns are story and poem.

There are two essential instincts in engaging with the world through language. The first is the cry of encounter linked to the desire to name; the second is the evaluation of options as a result of the encounter.

The Tyger is a poem by William Blake. Tiger! Tiger! is a story by Rudyard Kipling, introduced by a verse. The first doesn’t tell a story but offers us a burning presence in the imagination: the second doesn’t dwell on presence except in so far as it is an aspect of consequence. Consequence is vital. To take a very brief passage from Kipling:

Buldeo was explaining how the tiger that had carried away Messua’s son was a ghost-tiger, and his body was inhabited by the ghost of a wicked, old money-lender, who had died some years ago. “And I know that this is true,” he said, “because Purun Dass always limped from the blow that he got in a riot when his account books were burned, and the tiger that I speak of he limps, too, for the tracks of his pads are unequal.

“Because Purun Dass always limped”. In stories there is always an implied “and then”, and a “because”. There is neither a ‘then’ nor a ‘because’ in Blake. No one reads a poem like Blake’s to find out what happens in the last line. The end is the beginning.

There are various forms of narrative poem. We can deploy the old categories and talk of epic poems, discursive poems, and dramatic poems as well as lyrical poems, but there is something significant in what Edgar Allan Poe argued: that longer poems are essentially linked short poems, a series of flashes.

Coleridge’s  “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner”, is a ballad and therefore a story. But even here, where story would seem to be the point,  it is not the story that registers most deeply. It is tableau after tableau, each with its own presence: the encounter with nature and the imagination. The Mariner himself is thin as a character, a semi-transparent vehicle for a series of encounters with the world.

Poetry is where the presence burns more than the narrative drive.

Ideas of character and consequence are at the heart of the novel, and inform the story. EM Forster sighed about having to impose stories on characters but he felt obliged to; nor might Oscar Wilde’s Miss Prism have been entirely wrong in suggesting that fiction meant that the good ended happily and the bad unhappily: happiness and worth are issues in novels to an extent they are not in poems, and even the great modernist novels in which voice and character seem almost interchangeable, offer choices and links that prevent the book from breaking up into a series of poems.

Continue reading @ The Guardian