Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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Start writing fiction: characters and stories

7.1 Enrichment from reading

Figure 1

Here novelists talk about the importance of reading and how it enriches their work, but also about the influence of film.

As you’re listening to Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Tim Pears and Alex Garland, make a note of:

  • what reading – or viewing – appears to be important for them
  • how you think reading influences their writing
  • how cinematic storytelling influences the way a novelist tells and structures a story.
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Transcript

NARRATOR
Here novelists talk about the importance of reading and how it enriches their work, but also about the influence of film. As you’re listening to Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Tim Pears and Alex Garland, make a note what reading – or viewing – appears to be important for them, and how you think reading influences their writing.
And with film, does cinematic storytelling influence the way a novelist tells structures a story?
LOUIS DE BERNIÈRES
I think that if you don’t read, you don’t get anything out. You don’t get any writing done. It’s pointless wanting to be a writer if you’re not a reader. I read every day in the bath til the water goes cold; that’s just novels, fiction and stuff, and for research I do with my feet up on the kitchen table, you know, that sort of thing. And I do, I do a lot of reading.
Through my life I’ve had crazes for various writers, so an awful long list now. My longest craze was for various Latin American writers which I think is very obvious from my style. But other, otherwise I’ve had my Tolstoy craze and my Henry James craze and my Steinbeck craze and my Hermann Hesse craze you know, when I was a student and everyone was looking for the meaning of life. I had a little Jane Austen craze a couple of years ago and an Iris Murdoch one, well I read a lot of them and then, and then stop and go on to something else.
PATRICIA DUNCKER
Read everything, read all the time. Read in as catholic a way as possible. Read fiction if you’re a prose fiction writer, read widely in fiction, read a lot of non-fiction, go to the theatre, read everything you can get your hands on. Because, the more you read and the more you absorb, the denser, the richer your own texts will become.
TIM PEARS
Literature is a huge world, and if you can get inside it through writing, somehow you’re into the driving seat of something very special, and reading is going to be a far richer experience, and it’s something that you’re doing as a sort of, as a co-conspirator almost.
ALEX GARLAND
I’m a big film fan, I love watching films. The film I wish I’d written, the one I’d loved to have written more than any other would probably be Taxi Driver, I’d have thought. But yeah, they’re big influences and, I think, because I come from a background of comic strips, the way the films work and the way comic strips work are very, very similar and in terms of setting scenes, and stuff. In novels I always used to think in comic strip terms, almost like you’d have an establishing shot, so you’d set the scene, and then you’d zoom in on a character, and you’d look at these, so, you’d have set the scene so now you can really just deal with these two characters talking and maybe pull away at one point, there’s a bit in The Beach where some people are sitting on a beach and they’re chatting and, and then you sort of cut away to kid who’s knocking a ball around on a beach and then you cut back to them and that’s very like comic strip but it’s also very like a film.
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