Sunday, September 24, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 25: William Faulkner on What Makes a Good Novelist

Since English tenses are pretty particular, let's start this series with the 12 standard tenses, which we use to indicate a specific time that an action or state of being occurs:

1. Simple Past (action that happened, or state that existed)
I wrote a book.
I was happy.
2. Simple Present (action that habitually happens, or state that exists)
I write books.
I am happy.
3. Simple Future (action that has not ye happened, or state that does not yet exist)
I will write a book.
I will be happy. 
4. Past Perfect (action that happened before another past action, or state that existed before another past action or state that existed)
I had written a book when the publisher contacted me.
I had been happy until I wrote a book.
I had been happy before I became a writer. 
5. Present Perfect (action that started and is just completed or is continuing, or state that started and still exists)
I have written a book.
I have been happy for years. 
6. Future Perfect (action that will happen before another action will happen, or state that will exist before another action will happen or state will exist)
I will have written a book before you will write one.
will have been happy for years when I am old.
7. Past Continuous (action that was happening or state that was existing)
I was writing a book.
I was feeling happy.
8. Present Continuous (action that is happening or state that is existing)
I am writing a book.
I am feeling happy.  
9. Future Continuous (action that will be happening or state that will be existing)
I will be writing a book.
I will be feeling happy. 
10. Past Perfect Continuous (action that was happening before a certain past time)
I was writing a book until I grew tired.
11. Present Perfect Continuous (action that started and has been happening from a certain time to the present) 
I have been writing a book since last month.
12. Future Perfect Continuous (action continuing up to a certain future time)
I will have been writing a book for a year on October 23.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 24: Joyce Cary on the Real Stuff of Fiction

Irish novelist Joyce Cary saw plenty to be reaped from considering a character's motivation: "You've got to find out what people believe, what is pushing them on." Cary saw an absolute connection between form and "an ordered attitude towards" the character's principle of unity with the universe, God, and whatever else he or she would call existence.

Sounds deep, I know. In practical terms, this viewpoint can mean  writers must reach the core of characters, their souls, not only their way of interacting with the world but their reason for it.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 23: Francois Mauriac on Using Senses in Writing

"Before beginning a novel I recreate inside myself its places, its milieu, its colors and smells. I revive within myself the atmosphere of my childhood and my youth—I am my characters and their world."

When the author Francois Mauriac made this observation about his penchant for using sense perceptions in his creative work, he reminded all writers of the vitality they bring to their prose when following suit. What we most remember from our favorite books are the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch that pervade the action. A good start toward describing senses is looking for them in the fiction of most respected writers.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 22: Francois Mauriac on the Value of Distance in Time in Writing

French novelist Francois Mauriac was a believer in "a certain distance in time" for a fiction writer. Mauriac said it was absolutely necessary except in journaling, so he opined, "A young author has almost no chance of writing successfully about any other period of life than his childhood or adolescence."

If we take Mauriac's declaration literally, Carson McCullers proves him wrong when she created The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, whose the memorable characters Spiros Antonapoulous, Jake Blount, Biff Brannon, Dr. Benedict Copeland, and John Singer were older than her 23 years. Other examples are abundant.

Nevertheless, Mauriac makes a strong case for distance in time between experience and memory. As time passes, we better understand the setting, people, and situations that influenced their motivations and actions. Writers must write what they know, and they know more with distance in time.