Writing Tips from the Greats
[Your Creative Writing Masterclass by Jurgen Wolff, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012]
‘Isn’t it true that an author can only write about himself?... the characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.’ Jurgen Wolff quotes Milan Kundera in this thought-provoking ‘how to write‘ book. He quotes over 100 authors, many of them crime writers, to elucidate topics such as finding inspiration, developing characters and shaping the story.
Even if you never write a paragraph, this book will enhance your reading pleasure by illuminating, if not the mind of the author, then at least the creative process. However, should you wish to write, there is a practical section at the end of each chapter which includes a variety of writing and thinking tasks.
Every student of writing is told – don’t say, show! Jurgen Wolff makes the learning process more interesting by letting the greats speak. Who better to advise than Chekhov, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,’ or Mark Twain, ‘Don’t say the old lady screamed – bring her on and let her scream.’
For most of us ‘dealing with writer’s block’ may be a more relevant topic, than say, ‘dealing with fame and success’. Nevertheless, Wolff touches upon both of these. I personally, will try to remember H.G. Wells’ advice: ‘If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.’
And if all else fails, do as Raymond Chandler: ‘When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.’ (Indiana Brown)