Kazuo Ishiguro (born in 1954) is the highly acclaimed author of the novels Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day.
Here are five wonderful quotes to ignite some inspiration for your writing today!
1. Don’t take on a creative project lightly.
This is such a great thing to remember about your creative projects, and it’s especially true of novels. When you embark on a novel project, it’s going to be a part of your life day in and day out for months, possibly years. The ones you’re truly passionate about you stick with through five drafts, ten drafts, but the ones you don’t care about as much that you jumped into prematurely? You might only complete two or three drafts before you move onto something else.
One of the worst things you can do as a writer is start a bunch of different projects and never finish them. That goes for finishing the first draft, and that goes for abandoning the project before you reached its true final draft. Don’t just start a project because it sounds fun. Start a project you’ve been thinking about for a long time, that you have a plan for, that you intend to stick with until you reach its logical endpoint.
2. ‘Write about what you know’ is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. It encourages people to write a dull autobiography. It’s the reverse of firing the imagination and potential of writers.
I completely agree with Ishiguro about this one. Although it can sometimes help your writing when you bring in elements from your own life, it’s not in your best interest to always write what you know. That gets boring after awhile. That will put your readers to sleep. Sure, you might be able to write one glorious novel that’s all what you know, but then what are you going to do for your second novel and your third?
The truth is you’ll never grow as a writer if you don’t think outside the box eventually and go somewhere new. You can’t just keep writing the same thing you’re familiar with and know a lot about over and over. You’ll get words down on the page, sure, but you won’t improve your skills. Fire the imagination and see where it takes you. Fail often if you must, it’s okay. Just don’t keep writing only the things you know.
3. I used to think in terms of characters, how to develop their eccentricities and quirks. Then I realized that it’s better to focus on their relationships instead, and then the characters develop naturally.
I’ve never heard this take on developing characters before and I kind of love it. Because he’s absolutely right — the relationships that develop between characters in your stories will bring across those eccentricities and quirks of the characters. You can spend all the time you want figuring out who your main character is and what they want and what’s going to keep them from what they want, but their voice on the page will best come through when you explore all the relationships that character engages in.
I actually find one of the greatest thrills of novel writing to be writing scenes between characters that don’t interact often in the story. Where you have Character A interacting with some characters over here and Character B interacting with other characters over there, and then eventually, often late in the novel, Character A and Character B meet for the first time and have an interaction. You get to explore a new relationship between characters you’ve been discovering and developing all throughout the manuscript, which is always exciting, both for you and for the reader.
Pay attention to the relationships first and foremost in your fiction writing. Your readers will engage with your characters often based on the relationships they partake in.
4. Emotions are very important to me in a novel.
Emotions are important to me, too, when it comes to novel writing, but they can be so tricky at times, am I right? Give your major characters too many emotions, and their reactions might ring false or sentimental. Don’t make your characters emotional enough and they might read as stiff or one-dimensional. You have to find the right balance as a writer, and you have to remember that any novel or short story you write that leaves your readers feeling nothing will often get you nowhere.
There needs to be emotion on the page often, and you need to also have your readers emotionally connected to the characters and the story. Sure, some stories are merely entertaining page-turners, but even the best of those kinds of stories have some heart and emotion, particularly by the end. It’s not enough to just entertain if you want to be successful as a writer. You need to take emotions seriously. You want to do everything you can to make your story come alive, and emotions will play a big role in that.
5. I’m against any kind of imagination police, whether they’re from marketing reasons or class snobbery.
As a writer you should be able to take your imagination to the limit. No matter what genre you write in, you should be ready and willing to never go the obvious route and to instead find stories and characters we haven’t seen a thousand times before. You want to be original and creative and groundbreaking as often as possible, and the way to do that is to stretch your imagination.
The problem with going to new and daring places is you will often find yourself pushing against the occasional imagination police. Your beta readers will question the imaginative choices you made. Your creative writing professor will say your story needs focus. Your literary agent will say, if you do this at the beginning or if you do this with your main character, the story won’t ever sell. You’re going to have a wall of imagination police at some point, I’m sad to say.
But here’s the deal — never compromise your vision. If people give you feedback for how to change your story for the better that you agree with, then fine. But don’t take a story or novel that could be something extraordinary and compromise it because a few select individuals feel you’re doing something too crazy or bold. Go with the bold. Lean into originality.
Keep pushing your limits as a writer, and there’s no telling how much you’ll be able to achieve.
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