Developing Your Narrative Style

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 22:39 min

Salman teaches techniques to translate your personal voice into your own unique style of prose.

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Topics include: Style vs. Voice · Try Writing With a Distant Voice · Stylish Writers Know the Rules · Play With Style Through a Love Scene · Writing a Sex Scene: The Moor’s Last Sigh · Making Language Work for You · Case Study: Musicality in Satanic Voices


[MUSIC PLAYING] SALMAN RUSHDIE: To my mind, issues of rhythm are absolutely central to-- to meaning. The way in which a sentence or a paragraph sounds helps to convey a meaning almost subliminally so below consciousness. The reader gets it without quite knowing how they're getting it because it is a kind of music. [MUSIC PLAYING] This is maybe the first time in my life that I've really, in an extended way, tried to talk about the act of writing. You know, in a way, this is a sort of creative writing course. And-- and what has concerned me sometimes about creative writing courses is that they're very, very good at teaching craft skill, you know, and not so good at individualizing the voices of the different writers, you know, so that people can come out of a course having acquired a considerable amount of skill and-- and an ability to write well, you know, to write very well sometimes. But sometimes, I feel this kind of sameness. Everybody coming out of the same class kind of in a way writes in the same way. And-- and in the same way as when one talks about dialogue, the important thing is differentiation to try and make sure that the characters speak in different ways, you know. I mean, that's true of writers too, you know. You want to-- you don't want all writers to sound the same. So craft is great. And it gives you a foundation which is a very important foundation. But you have to at some point move beyond that into something more individual. Style is the manner in which you choose to adhere to or choose to break the rules of classical form. Voice is your touch as an author. It is what makes a piece of writing your own. These are imprecise terms. You could say that-- that the style must be suited to the character and that of the story that you're telling whereas the voice is somehow-- somehow you. It's the thing that is there in whatever you write, you know, that you should be able, and-- and we are able in-- in good writers, to see their voice in whatever they write. There are a few writers who seem to know from the very beginning something about-- about their voice. And-- and there are others who you can see working their way towards it. Doesn't really matter which, you know. There's-- there's no-- one is not better than the other as a way of proceeding. I would say that what you should do with any piece of writing is to make the style decisions is to say, what is it that will allow me most clearly and effectively to portray the characters and to tell the story? And if you do that properly, and you do that over and over again in story after story, then whatever it is that may in the end feel like your voice that may feel like, you know, you as a writer, who you are as a writer, that will emerge. [MUSIC PLAYING] A writer with a unique literary voice is Franz Kafka. When you read a story like "Metamorphosis" in which, in the first sentence, we discover that the main character has mysteriously been transf...

About the Instructor

To the delight of readers across the globe, Salman Rushdie’s genre-defying novels have brought surreal and magical realms to life for decades. Now the Booker Prize–winning author teaches you the art and craft of storytelling. Learn how to draw from your own experiences to build vivid worlds, authentic characters, and complex plots. There are extraordinary stories that only you can write—start sharing them.

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Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie teaches you his techniques for crafting believable characters, vivid worlds, and spellbinding stories.

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