People get bombarded every day with information, sometimes even getting overwhelmed by its sheer quantity. The internet helps them read different articles, blogs, captions, or book snippets. Behind all that work, there are many individuals, and their job title is a writer. Nowadays the position of the writer includes different positions such as journalist, columnist, author, copywriter, content writer, social media content writer, and so many more. Companies need writers to style their website, their social media, their email marketing campaigns, etc. Parents need writers for different cooking recipes, child parenting tips, lullabies, stories to read to their kids to fall asleep. So writing, this ancient profession has turned into an even bigger necessity in these modern times. Although, with all the information out there, it needs to be netted through and handpicked. In the first part of this series, we will focus on what authors have to offer and how do they work for it (Figure 1). How they manage to link some specific words to make you fall in love, feel scared or cry tears of laughter.
Routine, the most important thing that authors have
Authors are fickle beings and as such, they have their own schedules, their own superstitions, and other predicaments they follow to achieve greatness. But the most important thing authors have is a routine. They obey it, for it is their guidance and their key to producing qualitative work. Stephen King wakes up each morning around 6 a.m., eats breakfast, and then exercises. He either uses the treadmill or goes for a walk. After he returns, he sits down inside his office and starts to write. His goal when he was younger was to write around 2,000 words per day. Age nonetheless does not heed the words of anybody, even though that somebody might be a famous author. In these recent years, King has resorted to writing around 1,000 words per day. He also revises what he has written and makes changes where he feels, there are changes due.
In an interview in 2018, George R.R. Martin asked Stephen King:
"How do you write so many books so fast?"
King being, well himself simply stated:
"The way that I work. I try to get out there and I try to get 6 pages a day. When I'm working, I work every day, 3-4 hours, and I try to get those 6 pages. I try to get them fairly clean. If the manuscript is 360 pages long, that's basically 2 months' work. It's concentrated, but that's assuming that it goes well."
King has also said that he usually listens to music while he works, sets the pace of the story, and conveys certain emotions in our souls.
Although, another author, E.B. White, who has written Charlotte's Web, says:
"I never listen to music when I’m working. I have not that kind of attentiveness, and I would not like it at all. On the other hand, I am able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."
So here, White contradicts King in the music area, so what works for one author might not necessarily work for another.
Another estimated author, such as Haruki Murakami, in an interview in 2004, talked about his routine. He confessed that when he was in the process of writing a novel, got up at 4 a.m. and wrote for about five or six hours. He tends to run 10 kilometers a day or swim for 1500 metres, or sometimes even both. After that, he read a little and listened to music. Then he went to sleep at 9 p.m. Murakami kept this routine without variation, as he wanted to mesmerize himself, to reach a deeper state of mind. After all, repetition is in itself a form of mesmerism. But, in order to do this repetition for a long time, you need both physical and mental strength. For him, physical strength is just as necessary as the artistic touch.
Jules Verne, the famous French author, who predicted almost everything that would be invented in the future, had a simpler approach, but similar to King's. He got up early in the morning, ate breakfast, and got right to work. Verne would work non-stop in the silence of his studio and would not let anybody interrupt him for more than just a second. At times, his wife would enter his studio and bring their child in there, claiming that the little boy missed his papa. Jules would pick up his son and would say:
"Dad is writing a book for you. It has air balloons, it has adventures, it has even your uncle in there. You just need to grow up and read it. This book is waiting for you."
After that, he gives the boy back to his wife and demands not to be interrupted anymore. If it were for him, Verne would write even without eating anything at all.
He would work until late afternoon and then repeat it all the next day. Verne was used to pumping out three books per year. His imagination, combined with his unending knowledge made a good foundation for his pieces.
After he finished a book, he would go on vacation with his family for a couple of days or even a week. Besides enjoying their presence, Verne took a break to charge his creative mind and come back stronger than ever.
How is a story built:
Authors choose different settings for their stories. The setting usually means when and where the story will take place. But it does not just revolve around the location and moment in time, as the setting might include the weather, social norms, cultural traditions, and political climate, Different authors put an important emphasis on this point, depending on the story they are going to write. As it complements their storytelling and helps the reader get emerged in that world. Émile Zola is one of those authors, whose book settings are of the utmost importance (Figure 2), as he was the founder of the naturalism movement in literature. Naturalism in literature meant that everything had a natural explanation and everything should be written in the way it happened, down to the smallest detail.
The narration's voice can be first person, third person limited, and third-person omniscient.
A first-person narrator is usually the main character of the story. It addresses the reader with I, me, and myself. The reader will connect with this character easily and become one. It is one of the first-person storytelling's biggest strengths, but it also has its weaknesses. The main weakness is, it is harder to tell a story with a single, first-person narrator, but it still can be done.
Below there is an example of first-person narration from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven (Figure 3).
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.'”
The third-person narration, an outside narrator telling the story. It will address the reader with he, she, they. It has a lot of versatility, which is its biggest strength, but it lacks in connecting with the reader. Although, it can be compensated by having a character's strong development. This narrator also lets the reader know, what the character knows so far. It is still limited in the point of view it offers.
The third-person omniscient narration is an all-knowing, outside narrator telling the story. This narrator has as its biggest strength, the ease of storytelling as its knowledge is not confined by the character's knowledge. It knows anything in the universe and can jump from one character's thoughts to the other. Although, it is much harder to make a connection between the reader and the characters.
Characters are also a big part of the story, that will be crafted by the author. They can be main characters, secondary, or even background characters. Depending on their role, the reader will have a different feel and approach to them. Characters must have desires, needs, wants, of whatever kind, from the simplest to the most complex ones. This is their motivation to act, to take the story forward. The characters whose name pops up more than once or twice are important enough to have their own goals. A huge no-no, for writers, is to have their characters not act for anything. That turns the characters into plot devices, which can only be countered by strong character development.
Every story has a plot (Figure 4). A plot is what happens in the book, and is structured into 5 main points. First of all, the exposition of the world, the characters, the tone, and the writing style are introduced at the beginning of the book. Then it comes the rising action part, the spark caused by an incident. Here is the part where the characters are explored, problems and tension are escalated. The third part is the climax, where the plot has been pointing up to. The highest point of tension shows what everything has been culminating to. The falling action comes right after that, with any side stories are resolved. In the end, comes the resolution, where everything is wrapped up.
The themes about the stories can be as diverse as the author prefers. The author can choose more than one theme for the story if they so desire. Some of them might be regarding good vs bad, empowerment, coming of age, forgiveness, death, love, etc. The list can be endless, depending on what the author picks.
An essential piece to writing a story is conflict. Usually, authors go through the scenes they have written and see if there is any conflict within them. Some important questions regarding the scenes are if they add to the plot in general or add anything to the subplot. Two other important questions are if the scenes advance character relationship answer any crucial plot questions, or even bring new questions. All that conflict can help make those scenes more interesting. As it is known, without conflict the story might as well be dead, without leaving the nest.
The resolution of the story is also a crucial part. How authors choose to end the story will impact readers for better or for worse.
How did the characters find themselves at the end, did they learn from their decisions and what did they learn?
All the conflicts in the story should have a resolution in the end. But some authors choose to leave an open ending, up for interpretation or even with an air of mystery around it.
The morals of the story are what authors want the readers to grasp. Their stories are not just written for mindless consumption, they need the readers to grow with the story. Although, morals are deeply connected with the theme of the story. Authors consider the morals of the story, at the start but do not reveal them right away. The journey of the reader to grasp and finally understand the moral of the story is a joy and an appreciation token for the author, who has written the story.
Symbolism is an element of most author's works. They are literary devices, that convey different meanings. Symbols are represented by objects, animals, character archetypes, a natural phenomenon, or happening.
The clearest example is the raven in Poe's poem (Figure 5). It expresses the student's sorrow, suffering, anguish, all the negative emotions concerning his grief for the loss of his loved one.
The genre also has a big impact on the story being told. Authors, according to different genres, choose different words, styles, the narrative for storytelling, and all the elements mentioned above. Some of the genres are fiction, narrative, novels, short stories, poems, literary fiction, etc. All of these genres have their own defined subcategories of literary works.
Dedication to their craft
All the elements and styles mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg of what authors actually do. They tell stories, show us a different path, educate us, enlighten us and motivate us. Many individuals have gotten into reading books, from an author that gave a piece of his soul to us as the readers. Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe have written such wonderful stories, even when they were struggling with substance abuse, alcohol in their case. They continued writing for us, the reader, to help us see the evil that lies in people. But, also the fragility of humanity, how easy it is to snap. Jules Verne wrote until the day he died. His eyesight got so bad that he could see almost nothing from one eye, and the other one was only at 50% visibility. The doctor advised him to rest and to stop writing or reading anything. Of course, Verne did not stop there. Who else would educate people, motivate them, if not him? He saw into the future and knew humanity's potential.
The art of writing, such a fragile and powerful method of expressing one's self. Authors go through extreme lengths sometimes, to achieve their goals. The reader views them as some kind of God, but they are only humans, too. Despite all that, authors persist in their quest for education and the enlightenment of people.
Source of the featured image:
Cook, K. C. (2019, February 7). Henry Miller: on Writing by Henry Miller [Illustration]. https://kristophercook.com/henry-miller-on-writing/
H. (2021, April 9). Stephen King: Daily Routine. Balance The Grind | Conversations On Work, Life & Balance. https://www.balancethegrind.com.au/daily-routines/stephen-king-daily-routine/
Clear, J. (2020, February 4). The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers. James Clear. https://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers
Gunner, J. G. (n.d.). Examples of Writing in First Person. Examples.Yourdictionary.Com. Retrieved July 11, 2021, from https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-writing-in-first-person.html
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, January 17). Fiction | literature. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/art/fiction-literature
Davenport, B. (2021, April 9). Writing a Story? 10 Key Parts Of A Story You Must Include. Authority Self-Publishing. https://authority.pub/parts-story/