Monday, October 21, 2019

La Crême de la Crême

Muriel Spark’s Approach to Writing.

I recently watched a TV documentary about the author Muriel Spark (Dame Muriel Sarah Spark).  She was the genius author behind, probably her best known novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. 

In the interview she talked about her approach to writing fiction. She opens the interview as follows, “I think of a title. And I go around telling everyone I’m going to write a book by that name. Then one day I write the title. I put ‘by Muriel Spark’ under it, then I turn the page and I write ‘Chapter One’. And then I write the first sentence and then I go on from there. Really, that’s how it is.”

If you’d like to experience the rest of the 60 minute documentary go here. it is mesmerising. At least I found it so.

But back to the opening of the interview. I felt so reassured by listening to her speak about her approach to writing. Because it is also close to my own. Maybe not always a title, it can be just one word. A prompt. And a story will begin buzzing. Characters will just show up. Human nature (and all its elements) will take over and carry the story to a place I had not planned. As you know, I write mostly without conscious thought.

I stop and wonder if I should think. If I should plot. Do some character studies. Give thought to settings. Stick to some of the guidelines in the rules of writing. But no, for me that is a turn off - for me it stilts my fiction - because, for me life (well mine anyway) is not like that. Life just bowls along, or around, or backs up, or falls over, or in fact just stands still. And I don’t see why fiction should be any different.

So I thank Muriel Spark for humbly speaking about her writing. For the genius of her writing. It has given me confidence to continue to do my own thing in my own way and not be one jot concerned with rules.

How about you?


  1. This is so you, SueB. One question: Did you plot your remarks? Oh, that was snarky. Sorry. You have piqued my curiosity about Muriel Spark. What an interesting approach... but, yes, I can see starting with a title. I often start with a phrase or a sentence, not necessarily the first sentence, but a nugget, I suppose.

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