“"A lot of them [students] don't really understand," said Kureishi. "It's the story that really helps you. They worry about the writing and the prose and you think: 'Fuck the prose, no one's going to read your book for the writing, all they want to do is find out what happens in the story next.'" Here's the rest:
Wise words, Mr. Kureishi. That's why JK Rowling is a very rich woman; she's a superb plotter. And it's true, the two most popular genres are crime/thrillers and romance, both of which are plot-driven, more or less. But if you only paid attention to the plot, and forgot about characterisation, voice, writing and so on, the result wouldn't be very readable. Would it?
I suppose, as a beginner, you do tend to focus on the writing itself, especially if you've started on the self-expression road to writing, rather than the 'what do people want to read?' road. But good writers, writers like Hilary Mantel or Philip Pullman or Hanif Kureishi himself, to name a few, actually pay attention to all the 'ingredients' in the writer's cookbook. Of course they do. They all matter, and as a good writer, you can't help working on them.
Some of the rest of what he says is a lot more contentious, of course. I'd take particular issue with 'creative writing courses are a waste of time'. If you judge them in terms of number of 'successful' writers they produce, maybe so. But they are hugely productive of learning, stretching, enjoyment, friendships, and all sorts of other unexpected treasures. In any class about anything, most of the students will either not 'get it' at all, or won't go on to become leaders in that field. It doesn't matter. That's not the point at all.
For the record, this is the link http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for the classes I went to when I started writing fiction again after a long pause. I found all the treasures I've just listed, and more, and along the way I became a better writer too. Now, whether I become a commercially successful one is up to me.
I did an online IQ test the other day. It’s about forty years since I last did one, and you’re supposed to be at the peak of your mental powers in your early teens, so I was expecting it to have dropped by a few points, at least. But imagine my surprise, dear readers – instead of declining gently, it seems I have almost become a genius!
Except, of course, I haven’t. The tests I took in my teens had three parts, with questions involving maths, logic, verbal and visuo-spatial ability, and each took an hour. The one I’ve just done had thirty true/false questions, and took less than twenty minutes. It’s not even an apples and pears comparison, is it?
It’s just the old dream factory at work again, telling people what they want to hear. Now, I work in the dream factory myself, and there’s nothing wrong with dreams. But fiction is an excellent way of conveying truth without deception. You know it’s fiction, and you can pick out what you want and leave the rest. ‘Facts’ are a different ballgame, and you do need to be clever to sort out the false from the true. But you don’t have to be a genius. Which is just as well...