I watched a Creative writing workshop by Robin Yassin-Kassab (english-syrian writer and journalist, author of ‘The road from Damascus’, link to his blog Qunfuz) and I really enjoyed it. He seems to me a quite humble, profound but easy-going person. I’ve been taking a few notes which I’d like to share. ;)
Yassin-Kassab proposed 10 rules for writing, making it very clear, though, that creative writing is very much about being an individual, thus making ones own rules.
1. Read widely and critically
Read everything and be awake.
Usually we don’t have very young successful novelists, because so much needs to get into you, by living and reading.
Through commercial books you learn that a simple way to have the reader’s attention is to always keep a question in his mind: for example, is she going to shoot him?
2. Read your work aloud
Because if there is a mistake you’ll notice easily. Also, it helps with sound and rhythm.
3. Think about rhythm
Because we are musical beings.
4. Keep a writer’s notebook
Write down everything because you’ll forget.
Do some daily writing. You can set a target, like writing 3 pages per day, or writing for half an hour per day.
What to write? Just the first things that come to your mind.
This is a way to liberate the unconscious.
5. Cultivate and separate the adult and the child in yourself
You need both parts in order to write.
The adult: critic (brings discipline and wisdom)
The child: creative (is playful and capricious)
They need to be separated, otherwise the adult will inhibit the child.
6. Be extreme
Don’t hold back, don’t set limits. Exaggerate, go beyond the real to express yourself. Be alive, noisy, violent in your writing.
The general trend in literature is realism, but even surreal writing needs a context because nothing happens in isolation.
You don’t need to show all the context to the reader, but you need to have a context because it determines the character’s actions.
8. Character’s complexity
Scott Fitzgerald: ‘Plot is character’
A character needs development, an internal (soul facts) and an external (plot stuff) journey, moments of change, of realization, epiphanies.
– See like –
Exercise 1: write about something you see every day, from a different point of view. The purpose is to estrange from your own point of view in order to see what you don’t notice anymore.
Exercise 2: write a scene, like an argument between mother and son, exploring both points of view.
9. The democratic novel
The novel is a democratic form: there are many different voices in it.
You have to allow your characters to see from different perspectives, thus you need to allow yourself to see from different perspectives.
This way you can generate empathy with a character, even with an evil one.
10. Preserve the strangeness of the obvious
The simple experience of being alive is a very strange experience. The recognition of this strangeness can be found in literature.