Your Unmistakably Unique Worldview

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 20:36 min

Examine your personal perspective, values, and experience to understand one of your strongest assets as a writer: your unmistakably unique worldview.

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Topics include: See What’s in the Corners of the Frame · Examine Your Life Ruthlessly · Increase What You Know · The Question of Influence · Case Study: The Antagonist · Whose Right Is It to Tell a Story?


SALMAN RUSHDIE: When you read the work of the great writers, you can immediately see that there's a worldview out of which that work comes. They have a kind of way of thinking about people and societies which is their own. All of us, if we really look inside, have a way we think about the world. [MUSIC PLAYING] All of us create for ourselves a picture of the world. Partly, that's created for us by our parents or by our teachers or by whatever it might be. But we all have a picture of the world. We think the world is like this and we live in that picture of the world. And in a way, you could say that that's a kind of sanity. And if our picture of the world breaks because the world changes so much and the picture doesn't seem to fit anymore, that can be a little crazy-making, you know, if we can't frame the world in a way that seems right to us. So you have to think about what your picture of the world is. Literally try and make a picture of the world in your mind. What are the elements that you would put in that picture? What would be in the front of the picture? What would be in the background? What would be in the corners of the picture? For example, one of the things which has helped me to uncover how ordinary people lived in the past is to look at great art. Often, at the center of the painting, you'll see the main subject. That might be a courtly lady or a wealthy patron of the arts or a politician. But if you look to the corners of the frame, you'll see the everyday people, the guy with the cart selling loaves of bread or a store selling vegetables. Ordinary life is in the corners of the frame. And it can be very helpful to see that. So when you're making that picture of the world, see what's in the middle. See what's in the background. See what's in the corners of the frame. And gradually that can become something like your picture of reality. And then you write out of that. [MUSIC PLAYING] You know, when you read, let's say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, nobody else can write that stuff. You know from one sentence who the author is because his world view is so much his own. That's true also of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Toni Morrison and George Eliot, any number of great writers. The thing that characterizes that genius is that nobody else can do it. The reason they write the way they write is because they are the people they are. The writing that doesn't feel like that, that very often is because it sounds like somebody else. Either it sounds clearly like somebody else, i.e. it's overly influenced by some other writer, or it feels like 100 people could have written that. I mean, the I could do that reaction is a very bad reaction to a piece of writing. You don't want your readers to feel, yeah, I mean, I could do that. So the more personal and idiosyncratic it is, the more it will feel authentically yours. I mean, this comes back to the thing that I really do think, which is that in order to...

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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