Margaret Atwood is an author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her most prominent work, to name a few, include: “The Blind Assassin”, “Oryx and Crake”, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Alias Grace”.
1. Storytelling is one of the oldest things which humans do.
2. According to Margaret, a novel is a long story that ought to inspire the reader or listener to hear more of what is happening to the characters and how life turns out for them at the end.
3. Writers are usually avid readers.
4. Margaret compares a unique writer’s voice to fingerprints. We all have fingerprints, but not two fingerprints are identical; just like a writer’s voice, there are no two identical voices.
5. Margaret writes from characters, not from ideas because she believes that ideas are discovered much later by the readers.
6. At first, Margaret handwrites all her stories. She writes as fast and as much as she can without revising what she has written. She goes back to revisions once she is done writing whatever she had in her.
7. She doesn’t think about the structure of her book until she is about 50–60 pages into the story.
8. Don’t be afraid to try out different voices, styles and techniques, and always keep only what works for you.
9. Fear keeps many people from writing. Identifying that fear and dealing with it will open lots of doors for you as a writer.
10. Structure = order of the story. You may decide to tell your story chronologically (from the beginning to end), or from some point in the future and jump back in time. Underneath all these structure choices, a plot (what happens) will always remind the same.
11. Your story will guide you what structure it requires so be open to trying various structures before settling on one; it’s a hands-on process, according to Margaret. She advises to start with the simplest structure and then work your way to more complex ones.
12. While determining from whose point of view the story is being told, ask yourself: “Whose voice is telling the story?”, “To whom are they telling it, and why?”
13. A common point of view the strategies include:
— Third-person limited
— Third-person omniscient (narrator who isn’t a character but knows more than the character)
— Second person (structured around the “you” pronoun. Keep in mind that this is less common in novel-length work.)
14. When you find the right strategy for your novel, your writing will move much faster than before. You will be able to feel the momentum.
15. Devote a significant amount of time to figuring out whose point of view your story is going to come from.
16. Changing point of view from the first to the third person can help you unlock the story. If you also decide to change narration from past to present, it will have a similar effect on your story, especially when/if you feel stuck.
17. You cannot separate characters and events. A person is what happens to them — WHAT? I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. In a novel, your characters have to interact with the events that happen to them over time.
18. As a writer, you need to understand your characters, which means that you have to learn everything there is about them. Your characters are just like real people and have a history, hobbies, obsessions, secrets, likes, and dislikes.
19. Margaret makes charts for her characters where she notes: their birthday and world events that could be relevant to them. It helps her keep track of how the characters relate to one another and how old they are when fictional or historical events occur.
20. Every writer will focus on different characters details.
21. Knowing your character’s physical world will help you choose which details are essential to include in your narrative.
22. Accuracy in details will help your readers believe in the fictional world you have created.
23. Characters don’t have to be perfect, either likeable, but they must be interesting.
24. As a writer, you need to learn how to write in-between spaces of free time and when life events take over (few writers have a complete luxury of unlimited writing time). That flexibility will help you build a sustainable writing practice over time.
25. When you write fiction, you are solving problems by trying to work out answers to questions you keep asking yourself in the process.