Archives For Literature

Who Is Your Boo Radley? Finding Characters Who Motivate You To Write

A guest post by Patti Frazee

We all have, within our memories, a treasure trove of characters. Maybe it was that quirky childhood friend or the mysterious neighbors next door. Perhaps it was that mean old lady down the hill or that big brother who (almost) always tried to protect you. Or maybe it was that strong, kind father who guided you through life’s hardest lessons. Sound familiar? These are all beloved characters in Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

It’s always gratifying to delve into your own treasure trove to discover those characters who speak to you. Many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird were people from Harper Lee’s life. Her childhood friend Truman Capote was the template for Dill Harris. Her father was the backbone of Atticus Finch. How can you go into your memory and find those “characters” who motivate you to write? Maybe no one seems as memorable of Boo Radley or Dill Harris, or maybe you simply have to take a closer look.

Examine intensely those characters who speak to you, as Harper Lee did: “Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him… his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead.” Imagine if Harper Lee had ended this description at “Dill was a curiosity.” She doesn’t make us discern what she means; she shows us that he was a curiosity. She makes him curious to us by showing him through appearance, sounds, and habits.

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“Literature deserves its prestige for one reason above all others: because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little more wisdom, goodness and sanity.”

As writers and book lovers, we know everyone should be reading literature. But there are people who view it as frivolous and who question the value of reading novels and poems when there are so many real problems and issues happening in world. In this video The School of Life, founded by philosopher Alain de Botton and curator Sophie Howarth, explains why we should all be reading literature – and even why we should prescribe it as a cure for life’s many ailments.

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Filmed at The New Yorker Festival in October, this video features Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Junot Diaz and Karen Russell, author of the acclaimed Swamplandia, discussing the difficulties writers experience when writing short stories.

Diaz and Russell are in-conversation with The New Yorker’s senior editor Willing Davidson.

The full 90 minute version of their conversation can be found on The New Yorker’s Youtube Channel.

In July this year Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prominent writers of her generation, posted on Twitter her top 10 writing tips. For new and experienced writers alike, this is some very valuable advice.

Joyce Carol Oates' top 10 writing tips

Related post: Joyce Carol Oates on Developing Realistic Characters

“It’s very difficult to do happiness in novels in a sustained way.”

In this video recorded by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art earlier this year, Ian McEwan reflects on making romantic love work in fiction, the amazing evolution of the novel as a genre, and the mature writer as a toddler of old age.

Ian McEwan has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize six times, winning the prize in 1998 for Amsterdam. His most recent novel, Sweet Tooth, was published in 2012.

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“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

In 1934 aspiring writer and journalist Arnold Samuelson travelled over 2000 miles from Minnesota to Florida to meet Ernest Hemingway. He had read Hemingway’s ‘One Trip Across’, a short story published in Cosmopolitan that would later become the novel To Have and Have Not. Inspired, Samuelson wanted to meet the author in person and ask his advice on writing.

Initially Hemingway set him away telling him to come back the next day. When Samuelson returned he sat with Hemingway on his porch and discussed the short story as well as Samuelson’s struggles with writing fiction.

The two men went to Hemingway’s workshop where the author created the following reading list for Samuelson:

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Opportunities for Writers November and December 2013

Our ‘Opportunities for Writers’ posts started back in April and they have proved to be some of the most popular articles on the site. Here is our final Opportunities post for 2013.

For more writing-related news and links, follow Aerogramme Writers’ Studio on Facebook and Twitter.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, described as ‘the world’s largest writing event and nonprofit literary crusade’. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, starting from scratch and reaching ‘The End’ by November 30th. The NaNoWriMo website offers lots of tips and support, as well as links to local events around the globe.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading
is edited by a committee of high school students together with author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers. According to their blog the committee ‘meets nearly every week of the year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology. Want to say something to us? Contact the BANR committee at nonrequired [@] gmail [dot] com. We’ll read everything you send us.’

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