Sebastian Faulks, born 20 April 1953, is a British novelist, journalist, and broadcaster. He is best known for his historical novels including The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Gray. He has also published a James Bond sequel, Devil May Care. He is a team captain on BBC Radio 4 literary quiz The Write Stuff.
Seven quotes on writing:
- I start with the theme and setting, then a rough narrative arc including half a dozen big moments, like the supports in a river over which the bridge spans. Then the people are given to you because they’re the ones capable of acting out what’s required of the action to exemplify the theme.
- In the period of composition you have to be exceptionally open. Anything might feed in. The trick is in knowing the difference between a disposable thought and a robust idea. You have to live in a rather vulnerable, open state, while at the same time making hard decisions.
- The words themselves are the beginning and end. Too many adverbs is a bad sign. Even when the style is apparently plain it is so for a reason. And within plainness there are a hundred choices for each sentence in rhythm and syntax and of course within each word. Think of Hemingway.
- Almost everything I know about structure I learned from classical music. Most of what I know about narrative I took from cinema. I also think of oil painting quite a lot, particularly when I am trying to add layers, to thicken the texture.
- Real emotion comes from inside the reader. You’re unaware that the author has been trying to make you feel something; in fact, you wonder whether the author is really aware of how sad, funny or inspiring this passage is. Artificial is when you feel your arm being twisted.
- When I’m writing a book I work from ten till six every day in a small office near my house. I never write less than a thousand words a day. Writer’s block is God’s way of telling you to shut up. More people should have it…
- Write about what you don’t know. Research, invent. Write about people of other ages, sexes, nationalities and periods in history. Then find a book you think is similar to yours. Write to the author care of the publisher and find out who their agent is. Good luck.