Writers Write is a writing resource. In this post we share American novelist, Chris Bohjalian’s 10 tips to help aspiring novelists stretch their fiction.
Chris Bohjalian is an American novelist, born 12 August 1962.
He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three of them have been adapted for film.
He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Cosmopolitan.
He is also a playwright and screenwriter. He adapted his novel, Midwives for a play, which premiered on 21 January 2020 at the George Street Playhouse.
Visit his website: chrisbohjalian.com
We found these tips from Chris and wanted to share them with you.
Chris Bohjalian’s 10 Tips To Help Aspiring Writers Stretch Their Fiction
- Don’t merely write what you know. Write what you don’t know. It might be more difficult at first, but – unless you’ve just scaled Mount Everest or found a cure for all cancers – it will also be more interesting.
- Do some research. Read the letters John Winthrop wrote to his wife, or the letters a Civil War private sent home to his family from Antietam, or the stories the metalworkers told of their experiences on the girders high in the air when they were building the Empire State Building. Good fiction is rich with minutiae – what people wore, how they cooked, how they filled the mattresses on which they slept – and often the details you discover will help you dramatically with your narrative.
- Interview someone who knows something about your topic. Fiction may be a solitary business when you’re actually writing, but prior to sitting down with your computer (or pencil or pen), it often demands getting out into the real world and learning how (for instance) an ob-gyn spends her day, or what a lawyer does when he isn’t in the courtroom, or exactly what it feels like to a farmer to milk a cow when he’s been doing it for 35 years. Ask questions. . .and listen.
- Interview someone else. Anyone else. Ask questions that are absolutely none of your business about their childhood, their marriage, their sex life. They don’t have to be interesting (though it helps). They don’t even have to be honest.
- Read some fiction you wouldn’t normally read: A translation of a Czech novel, a mystery, a book you heard someone in authority dismiss as ‘genre fiction’.
- Write for a day without quote marks. It will encourage you to see the conversation differently, and help you to hear in your head more precisely what people are saying and thereby create dialogue that sounds more realistic. You may even decide you don’t need quote marks [ a.k.a. inverted commas] in the finished story.
- Skim the thesaurus, flip through the dictionary. Find new words and words you use rarely – lurch, churn, disconsolate, effulgent, intimations, sepulchral, percolate, pallid, reproach – and use them in sentences.
- Lie. Put down on paper the most interesting lies you can imagine…and then make them plausible.
- Write one terrific sentence. Don’t worry about anything else – not where the story is going, not where it should end. Don’t pressure yourself to write 500 or 1,000 words this morning. Just write 10 or 15 ones that are very, very sound.
- Pretend you’re a banker, but you write in the night to prove to some writing professor that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. Allow yourself a small dram of righteous anger.
If you enjoyed this, you will love:
- David Baldacci’s 5 Top Writing Tips
- Isabel Allende’s Writing Process
- Nicholas Evans On Why Writing Is Like Going On A Hike
- Dean Koontz On Overcoming Self-Doubt
- Blake Bailey’s 5 Tips For Writers
- Lev Grossman’s 7 Tips For Writers
- Octavia E. Butler’s Writing Advice
- Tess Gerritsen’s Writing Process
- Elizabeth Bowen’s 7 Tips For Writing Dialogue
- Writing Advice From The World’s Most Famous Authors
TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.