Sometime I think that everything I ever learnt about ‘how’ to write, I learnt from reading Ursula K. Le Guin novels [with humble apologies to my favourite English teacher, Mrs. Titherington]. Even now, I still find myself reaching for one of Le Guin’s works, not just for that spark of inspiration, but to remind myself on the ‘how’. How did she write this scene, capture that character, make it all work?
And just to interject here, Le Guin also wrote some edifying articles and posts. One need only look here, “On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy” to get a taste of her knowledge, wit, and insight. Certainly, you can’t do any worse than reading through her articles on writing, especially, and specifically, “What Makes A Story?
“I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which involves change.
I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax.
Climax is one kind of pleasure; plot is one kind of story. A strong, shapely plot is a pleasure in itself. It can be reused generation after generation. It provides an armature for narrative that beginning writers may find invaluable.”
My research isn’t just confined to Mme. Le Guin. I also find myself referring to other great SF luminaries such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Herbert. They each have added to my knowledge, to stretching my horizons well beyond Earth’s gravity well, and aided me in building my language of description. And while I hope I’ve learned my lessons, I’m not naive enough to simply think I can stop learning. On the contrary, I know I will never—as a writer never mind as a human being—stop learning.
Not until they nail the coffin lid down and tell me to shut up already!