from the world's big
Will Storr has written a masterful guide to writing with "The Science of Storytelling."
- In "The Science of Storytelling," journalist Will Storr investigates the science behind great storytelling.
- While good plots are important, Storr writes that great stories revolve around complex characters.
- As in life, readers are drawn to flawed characters, yet many writers become too attached to their protagonists.
Will Storr, author of 'The Heretics', appears at a photocall prior to an event at the 30th Edinburgh International Book Festival, on August 13, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images<h2>The Many Us</h2><p>Many writers fail because they become too emotionally invested in their protagonist, which is often constructed from pieces of the writer. Another way to phrase it: the writer must be willing to expose their own flaws. </p><p>The Buddhist concept of no-self derives from the idea that none of us are ever one single thing. We're influenced by the environment we're in and the people we're around and the amount of caffeine we drink. We have much less willpower at night than in the morning. Our goals and desires shift by the hour. We are many people throughout the day. </p><p>"The difference," Storr writes, "is that in life, unlike in story, the dramatic question of who we are never has a final and truly satisfying answer." Humans are complex animals. We love stories that make us the hero. To be heroic requires recognizing the many conflicting desires and thoughts that make us what we are.</p><h2>The Hero's Journey</h2><p>Which is really what all of this is about: championing the hero. "Stories are tribal propaganda," Storr concludes. The modern storyteller is working with a different landscape than those past. "A unique quality of humans is that we've evolved the ability to <em>think</em> our way into many tribes simultaneously." We're no longer bound by the traditional tribal structure that dominated for hundreds of thousands of years, nor the caste system that commenced with the development of Harappan civilization. Today's hero transcends prior boundaries. </p><p>Though we cannot write off tribalism completely. We're still biologically Stone Age. Just because we have an opportunity to grow does not mean everyone chooses to. "A tribal challenge is existentially disturbing." </p><p>We all believe in stories, and all stories are inventions. If we lose our own hero narrative, depression and anxiety are certain to follow, so invested in our stories have we become. The best storytellers carry their hero through to the end. Their flaws result in transformation. It's what we all crave in a story because it's what we all desire, regardless of how illusive notions of control and closure actually are. </p><p>For the time being, while we're here, we're storytelling animals. Will Storr has contributed a wonderful guide of how to master the craft of invention. To pull a random quote from the formative years of my childhood, as Axl Rose sang, use your illusion. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is "</em><em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
"You get to this age, you realize that there are people who will not like what you do no matter what you do," says Booker Prize-winner Salman Rushdie.
- Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie recounts his evolution as a writer who has grown more aware of the reader and less aware of the critic.
- Literary reviews, famously the Times Literary Supplement, were once anonymous—and brutal. Once the Times started publishing bylines with reviews, critics suddenly got much nicer.
- Anonymity, especially online, is a double-edged sword. In authoritarian societies, it gives people great freedom. However anonymity is also the reason people say things online they would never say if they were in a room with you. That may be a degrading force in a highly digital society.
The famed German filmmaker offers his thoughts on reading during Eric Weinstein's podcast.
- During Eric Weinstein's podcast, The Portal, Werner Herzog said that reading is essential for any creative endeavor.
- In the past, Herzog has stated that you can't be a filmmaker without a regular reading habit.
- Herzog's reading list includes classics by Virgil and J.A. Baker, and even the report on JFK's assassination.
Werner Herzog on "The Portal", Episode #003: "The Outlaw as Revelator"<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fe4845a64aacdffa2a171a1a6a9c2f88"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eua5iPUKw6Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Looking up big, fancy words won't make your writing better. But a thesaurus can help – if you use it like this.
- Using a thesaurus to find larger or more impressive words is misguided, says Martin Amis. Instead, use a thesaurus to find words with the perfect rhythm for your sentence.
- For example, the Nabokov novel "Invitation to a Beheading" was originally called – not for very long – "Invitation to an Execution". Nabokov nixed the repetitive suffix.
- A dictionary is also a writer's best friend; looking up words has a rejuvenating effect on your mind, says Amis. "When you look up a word in the dictionary you own it in a way you didn't before. You know what it comes from and you know its exact meaning."
The renowned author plans to publish a follow-up to the 1985 bestseller in September 2019.
- The sequel will take place 15 years after the end of the first book.
- The Handmaid's Tale has sold more than 8 million copies in English since it was first published in 1985.
- Atwood said she was inspired to write a follow-up, in part, by the "world we've been living in."