Sage Advice

“There are three rules to writing a novel; unfortunately no-one knows what they are.”

- Somerset Maugham

Kurt Vonnegut, when once speaking at an Ivy League school, asked the full house of 2,000 how many of them were writing a story at the time . Most of the audience raised their hands. And how many of you are stuck, he asked. Not quite, but almost as many, raised their hands. Add a character, he said.

When I finished reading about this I went on with my day. I walked the dog, put away the laundry, practised my viola, wrote a blog, and read some fiction. As a reward for my productive day, as the sun grew weaker and the late-afternoon chill set in, I sat down to knit a few rows of my latest Endless Scarf. I was a few stitches in when the earth shifted, and without warning, meaning sunk in. Let me finish my row! I cried out to an empty house. Well, not quite empty. The Resident Feline raised his head and glowered at me for interrupting his twentieth nap of the day.

I pounded through my row, smoke coming off the needles, then cast aside the scarf and dashed upstairs to the Garret and pounded out a few pages of my neglected novel manuscript (more pounding, more smoke). I re-wrote a scene from a new point of view, that of a minor character, something I hadn’t considered trying before. Suddenly all was clear.

Well, a little less murky, anyway.

Add a character. Sage advice.

Categories: General.