Grabbed by an Image

Writing like a Vampire

How to Write a Bestselling Novel

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
When reading a book, I sometimes usually find it hard to switch off and consume the page uncritically. As I'm an author, I'm always 'on' looking for how the writer of the story I'm reading did it—or failed to do it.

From time to time, I read something that really grabs me, making me go back to examine and enjoy it again. For years, I've recorded quotes, aphorisms and poetry, some of which I regurgitate on the Colony :rolleyes:to make a point.

Here are a few recent examples, which may have an influence on future writing projects, though I'm happily wondering how.

I have long-term plans for a novel about a man who returns to writing in old age, penning a semi-autobiographical story that explains some of the strange twists and turns of his life, as in these two observations:

"You can't do anything about the length of your life but you can do something about its width and depth."

Evan Esar (American humourist, 1899-1995)

"You don't write about people you know, you write what you know about people."

Jan Mark (Children's author, 1943-2006)

This astute assessment of human relationships is apt for the theme of a novel about how you never really know someone, not even those you're closest to....

"Relationships, easy to get into, hard to maintain. Why are they so hard to maintain? Because it's hard to keep up the lie! 'Cause you can't get nobody being you. You got to lie to get somebody. You can't get nobody looking like you look, acting like you act, sounding like you sound. When you meet somebody for the first time, you're not meeting them. You're meeting their representative."

Chris Rock (Comedian, from Bigger and Blacker, HBO, 1999)

This advice is also applicable to writing a novel:

"A film is only as good as its villain."

Alfred Hitchcock (Film director, 1899-1990)

I was particularly struck by the closing lines of this poem by WW1 soldier T.E. Hulme, the way that he expresses the concentration and feeling of being trapped when in combat, a form of tunnel vision necessary to survive immediate danger:

Trenches: St Eloi

Over the flat slopes of St Eloi
A wide wall of sand bags.
In the silence desultory men
Pottering over small fires, cleaning their mess- tins:
To and fro, from the lines,
Men walk as on Piccadilly,
Making paths in the dark,
Through scattered dead horses,
Over a dead Belgian's belly.

The Germans have rockets. The English have no rockets.
Behind the line, cannon, hidden, lying back miles.
Beyond the line, chaos:

My mind is a corridor. The minds about me are corridors.
Nothing suggests itself. There is nothing to do but keep on.

T.E. Hulme, 1883-1917—killed by a direct hit from a German shell, which blew him to smithereens. The poem was written down by his friend, writer Ezra Pound, from conversations they had in the trenches.

Have you come across any arresting images in books you've read?
Stuff that's inspired you?
Or, wise words that offer hope for weary writers?
I like this part of William Blake's poem:

Auguries of Innocence - William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
Also, ee cummings:

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Any Heinlein quote will do:

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.

Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again.
Also Kahlil Gibran if I want to think about ambivalence.
"You don't write about people you know, you write what you know about people."

Jan Mark (Children's author, 1943-2006)

All that I know about people is based on people I know/knew/knew of.

I have some classic nutters in my list of people I have known, and haven't started to write about them yet (no-one in Litopia...yet !) Like the guy who boasted that as of breakfast that morning he had 1178 items on his Excel to-do list - and that's just the start...
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Writing like a Vampire

How to Write a Bestselling Novel