Murakami’s sense of himself as a sort of pipeline – a conduit between his subconscious and that of his readers – is so pronounced that he even pauses, after referring to himself in passing as a “natural storyteller”, to issue a correction: “No, I’m not a storyteller. I’m a story watcher.” His relationship to those stories is that of the dreamer to a dream, which may explain why he claims almost never to dream at night. “Well, maybe once a month, I dream,” he says. “But I usually don’t. I think it’s because I get to dream when I’m awake, so I don’t have to dream when I’m sleeping.”
From The Guardian's Haruki Murakami interview
It is the ability to summarise and encapsulate that makes symbolism so interesting, useful and - when used well - arresting.
The symbol may be a picture, person, object, word, image or idea. What symbols can you use in this story? Can it be an everyday symbol that we’d hardly notice?
Have we lost the art of writing letters? On Saturday 25th September 2017 The Daily Telegraph published some letters that Sylvia Plath wrote to her husband, Ted Hughes. The power of her writing crosses the years. The intimate words take us under her skin. Is this the forgotten art of writing love letters?
In a letter written on Monday 1 October 1956 she talks about her sadness of leaving her husband in Yorkshire and returning to Cambridge University:
I am back. The gas fire wheezes and dehydrates my right side, the rain blowing in the open window hydrates the left; I am codeine-numb, dazed, and utterly blissfully insensible. The trip back was hell; I found by picking up my suitcase and letting a noble agonised expression pass immediately over my face, I needed no porter until Cambridge. I stared at the wet landscape en route; it was flat and grey-green. That was that. If there were buildings, they were ugly.
I am very numb and very insensible though I have been unpacking, making huge piles for laundry, cleaners, rubbish, throwing away stacks of letters and scrap, during which I lacerated my thumb on a broken wine bottle; the cream crackers are soggy; the Nescafe is a hard cake; the strawberry jam is rancid. I drank the last of the vinegary Chilean burgundy and I love you. I will live in you and with every thought for you, however, I must smile and be politic with my supervisor and the odd girls here, none of whom, thank heaven, are back yet. But I am all for you, and you are that world in which I walk. I am still eating your dear lovely sandwiches; I felt too lousy on the train to eat, except for the bananas like you said; so I am having hot milk and loving you over those sandwiches now.
And then two days later:
Wednesday 3 October 1956
It is early yet, a clear miraculous guileless blue day with heather-coloured asters, shining chestnuts breaking from green pods (I wait till after dark to collect these) and rooks clacking like bright scraped metal; I find myself walking straight, talking incessantly to you and myself, and painfully abrased by the crowds of people – the motion, chatter and nip and tuck of cars and throngs in Petty Cury nearly drove me home screaming yesterday; I been, for four months, conscious really of only living in and with you, with a great sense of complete contained safe aloneness and protection that grew to mean in my deepest bone and marrow.
I am writing this in my bathroom after a lousy little breakfast of queer tasting honey on white (ugh) toast and Nescafe – regular breakfasts don't start here till tomorrow; the way I miss you makes that hissing small anaemic word look ridiculous. I have very simply never felt this way before, and what I and we must do is fight and live with these floods of strange feeling; my whole life, being, breathing, thinking, sleeping, and eating, has somehow in the course of these last months, become indissolubly welded to you; it is difficult to describe – sort of as if I had innumerable tender, sensitive tentacles joined to you, and suddenly, except for those in my mind, all were cut off, left wavering loose; now people affect me like vinegar does our lovely poached eggs; I contract, concentrate, withdraw, and not a tentacle is left out; I marvel at how well I can get along without giving anything of myself to anyone.
Click here to be taken to the original article in the Daily Telegraph
In 1842 Charles Dickens, in correspondence with Edgar Allan Poe, noted that when the author William Godwin wrote ‘Caleb Williams’ that he wrote backwards. He started by 'first involving his hero in a web of difficulties and then casting about for some mode of accounting for what had been done.' (The Philosophy of Composition 1846). Likewise, Pierre Boulle who wrote Planet of the Apes as well as The Bridge Over the River Kwai, started by writing the final chapter of his books and then working backwards.
Try writing your story from end to beginning. Start at the end, then ask yourself 'How did I get here?' Picture the action and choices that led you to this moment and watch as your story emerges. (This technique also works with individual scenes.)
More than any other quality, contrast defines characters. By contrasting two characters, the strongest character dynamics are achieved. Almost any relational story that comes to mind, whether a romance, a partnership, or a friendship, probably contains contrasting characters.
Keep the association between characters tight. Ensure they need each other for things to work. Change the emotions of one of the characters. What piece of information (truth or secret) could cause problems?