Wednesday 18 May 2011

Good read (cont)

Jeffrey Archer was on the radio this morning (I'll confess; it was in fact Jeffrey Archer I was referring to in my previous Good Read post), and he made several interesting points. The one that sticks in my mind is this. When he decided to write a novel to resolve his bankcruptcy, he asked someone's advice on how to go about making money out of writing. The answer was, you choose between being a writer or a storyteller. He chose the latter, and must now be one of the wealthiest people in this country.

I think we all want to tell stories; after all, that's what novels are. But when the story is all, and it's a really good story, we are, as it were, lead by the nose. We can't help ourselves. The writing may be awful, the descriptions dire, but the story pulls us along. Those great big glittery blockbusters labelled "No 1 Bestseller" (surely they can't ALL be the No 1?) are, above all, compelling stories. I've read some of them, and I can see what they're doing. But can I do it?

My books are character-led. They start with the characters, and move on from there. I love my characters, get deeply involved with them, and most of them are nice people. I miss them, and think about them long after they've gone. They've paid a few bills, but that's about all.

But perhaps it's time to change...


  1. I really like Archer's short stories. Not so much his novels, but the stories are great.

  2. I was particularly interested in what you had to say about Mr Archer's writing, Frances, as my husband loves them for the stories. I haven't read them yet, so can't personally have an opinion. But I know husband also enjoys them for the background details of each novel, as he always tells me a lot of research must have gone into them!

    I'm with you - character is what I start with, always.

  3. Hi, Fran. I didn't know he'd written short stories. I might look them out. Thanks.

    Rosemary, I'm not sure I can recommend them (or at least, the one I'm reading). But I can certainly see the attraction. I'd so love to be able to write a plot-driven novel! I have one or two marvellous plots, but can't write the books. I don't seem to be able to do action-packed excitement. I get too hooked up on the lives of my characters. So - no new car for me, then. My ancient Ka goes in for its MOT today. Fingers firmly crossed (but I don't hold out much hope!).

  4. I love his short stories too, but have not bothered with many of the novels. The stories have a good, page-turning quality and often a nice twist. I think I love his ideas for stories more than the actual writing, particularly as my own are character-led. I struggle sometimes with the story, finding them rather thin and lacking when I read through. Then I'm left with trying to bulk them out, which is often a less than satisfying process.

  5. Joanna, I think you're right about his ideas for stories being good ones. He seems to be enviably full of ideas!

  6. I can't stand the bloke but I have to admit, his short stories are very good.
    From reading your book, Frances, I think the characters are compelling enough without a story full of plot twists and turns. My advice (for what it's worth) is stick to what you're very good at.
    And in answer to your question in the previous post about typing - I use one finger on each hand.

  7. You're very kind, Keith. Thank you!

    And I take back the rude things I said about your typing!