Nicole and I have been trying out Masterclass lately. It was definitely Nicole’s idea, and she’s the one who set everything up, but we’ve both been enjoying learning about writing from a variety of different people. The first Masterclass that we tackled was from Margaret Atwood and was all about–you guessed it–creative writing.
Today we are going to share our thoughts on the Masterclass so that you can hear a bit about what Atwood teaches in case you are interested in Masterclass. Or if you are interested in learning more about creative writing, like we always are!
Atwood had an interesting perspective on short stories and how to start them. She doesn’t think about structure until she was about ¼ into her stories. She writes out her skeleton and then she goes back to add information to support the story structure. You put up the frame of the house and then go back to pick out the siding, color of the shingles, the size of windows and curtains, etc. Because to her, the story is what happens and that is the plot and structure is how you tell the story.
Atwood also talked about starting the story right there in the middle of the action. What is breaking the main character’s pattern? Pick one event that makes the main character’s life no longer perfect and that is the place you start. For then onwards, every action the mc does, reveals the character and everything the mc does, should build their character. They are there to interact with the events of the story, if you have a character that does not serve that purpose, consider getting rid of him or her, or maybe merge with another one. Characters should all serve a purpose, and their purpose in the story should not be wasted.
I definitely think that Atwood had some unique and clever ways of looking at writing. She is, of course, an amazing and successful writer, and I don’t think writers can every go wrong listening to those who have made a career out of writing.
The first thing that stuck out to me when watching her Masterclass is something that Nicole also mentioned–a story needs a break in a pattern to get it going. In order to write something good and unique, you need to start from somewhere slightly off-kilter and different than the typical “pattern.”
Atwood also started out with the idea of never starting with an idea. This is an interesting concept to me because it seems to be the exact opposite of what I’ve always thought to be true. She encourages immersing yourself in writing and getting something on the page. Atwood says that is where your story/idea comes from.
So those are few things that stood out to Nicole and me in Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass. There are countless other tidbits of useful information for writers that Atwood weaves into each short lesson. We’re definitely still new to exploring Masterclass, but we’ll take you along with us and let you know what we find out!