Sebastien Faulks (b. April 20): “Everything I know about structure I learned from classical music.”

20 Apr

faulks

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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…
  7. 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.

 

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