Jennifer Egan is an acclaimed author and short-story writer. Her fourth novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. In the following videos, recorded in 2010 for the New York Center for Fiction’s Craftwork series, Egan discusses different kinds of characterisation and the elements that strengthen a work of fiction.
Egan begins by explaining that in fact as a writer, she doesn’t generally think in terms of ‘craft’. Egan instead works unconsciously, at least on her early drafts. This process is then followed by years of editing in which she tries to ‘tame those (drafts) and shape them into something that’s tolerable.’
Egan describes the process of separating elements of craft such as ‘voice’, ‘description’, ‘characterisation’ and ‘point of view’ as somewhat artificial. She instead sees these elements interacting ‘like systems in a living organism …(working) together to animate the writing.’
Jennifer Egan’s writing has been described as subtle, funny, wacky, energetic and profoundly authentic. Her original voice and graceful intelligence shine through in this 45-minute lecture.