Thursday, 13 November 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: Constraints and Styles

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Even though I prefer writing  non-fiction, I still read fiction as a way of learning more about how writers use fictional techniques.  Be it plot, character, scene, point of view, they are all relevant techniques when storytelling.

One of the best free (yes free) online writing courses I've come across this year is How Writers Write Fiction, from the University of Iowa's International Writing Programme, which comprises of 8 accompanying videos that each feature two established writers of fiction, plus written exercises.  

I found the class session 7 - Constraints and Styles, which featured Alan Cherchesor: Finding a Personal Style and Kevin Brockmeier: The Value of Constraints (particularly Kevin's talk), fascinating and inspiring. 

I have never thought of the value of constraints when writing but I will be trying out some of the exercises, e.g. write a story in which every sentence has a numeral or write a story in which every sentence has the same number of words. One of the things that constraints can achieve is a different focus on the story at the level of the sentence - a spur to creativity - which ultimately can become the most satisfying pieces of narrative or linguistic work. Surprising the imagination into doing unexpected things can, bit-by-bit, transform the narrative into something it never would have become.

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