About books and writing.

     

On books and writing - A personal view by Ron Lindeman.

                                

Writing is a creative process just as making music and painting is.

Writing in this sense brings to mind books and in particular novels.

As with art and music there are many different types and sorts of novels.

Just look up all the types of novels yourself in a textbook.

There is no specific definition of what “literature” is.

There are many theories of literature trying to explain what literature is.

There is of course also a history of literature.

And yes, I did read some textbooks about these subjects but it didn’t help me much.

More than informative it really was not.

At least not to me.



The best description of what a novel should be I read somewhere in a book by Albert Camus.

To be precise in: "Albert Camus Selected Essays and Notebooks”.

It is in a review of a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre called "La Nausée ( The Nausea)"

Albert Camus wrote this review in 1939.

It was published in the newspaper "Alger Républicain".

I quote: "A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images.

And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images.

But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas.

And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist."


Now I really am no Albert Camus, but the description really appeals to me.

Ideas I already have.


Like: The central figure must be a man who goes through life contemplative.

But who defied by fate is driven to go through deep valleys.

The question is how he comes out of there.

His life will be adventurous and dark.

His goal will be to survive.

His destiny is to obtain peace in his heart and soul.

He possesses the ability to learn the right things from everything he goes through and experiences .


I like different sorts of books.

But mostly I like books in which people live in isolation or in isolated environments.

The grassy steppes in cold areas, the woody valleys, the greatness of the mountains, the from God forgiven isolation in urban deserts, and the like.

Where human character qualities arise and people must find ways to transform hatred into appreciation.

In which people learn to respect one another.

Learn to love one another.

In which people look for change.

In which people have to make compromises to survive.

To be able to live with each other.

In which the heart and feelings conquer.

In which wisdom and love conquer.


As I mentioned I do have my own ideas about writing a novel.

And I do have some favourite books and writers from the history of world literature.


First of all I like novels that are more than just superficial and shallow.

But novels can be thick or thin, stories can be long or short.

Novels can be complicated or easy to absorb and to digest mentally.

“The stranger” by Albert Camus is a relatively short novel.

War and peace by Leo Tolstoy is a long novel.

The first is relatively easy to read and the second more complicated.

But they are both novels with deeper underlying meaning.

They are both absolutely not superficial and shallow novels.

I mean, I have a lot of favourite writers and I learned from each of them something I carry with me and that remains in my mind.

From each different writer one can learn things that can help if you wish to write a novel yourself.


I believe language can be used in a free manner.

Language is not a static object but an evolving means to express ourselves and to communicate with others.

Like peoples migrate from one place on planet earth to another, cultural characteristics and differences will eventually mix .

People will start using words from the language migrants introduce.

Neologisms, new words, will be invented till they’ll find there way in everyday usage by people.

It has always been that way.

Still language should be used in a grammatically correct way.


Besides that grammar and spelling must be correct there’s the matter of which narrative mode to choose.

There are several narrative modes: first-person view, second-person view, third-person view and alternating person view.

The first-person view means that the character tells the story as “I”,

or in the case of plural as “we”.

The second-view narrative mode means that the narrator refers to the character as “you”.

The third-person view refers to the characters as “he”, “she” or “they”.

The alternating person view means the writer switches from for example the third-person narrative mode to the first-person narrative mode.

I think I’d choose for either the third-person narrative mode or the alternating person view.

Or maybe a combination of both.

Like I tell the story describing each character from a distance but sometimes the individual characters seem to take over and tell the story from their own perspective.

I would like to mix passages in which I’d describe sceneries and events happening from an objective point of view but in a catching and captive  and aesthetical way with dialogues between characters.


I like writers who take effort in extensive research before actually start writing.

I mean, it’s important to know everything or at least as much as possible about the subject matter you’ll be writing about.

Like the physical environment, geography, cultural background, etc.

A man like the American author James Michener bothered to do really extensive research for each book he wrote.

I like that.


James Michener wrote a book called “Centennial” which describes  several generations of families in the west of the United States.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote a book called “A hundred years of solitude” describing six generations of the Buendía family.

The description of how several family-members are and develop or change, is fascinating.

I mean, both writers had to schematically set up generations of family-members, giving them names and their own specific identities and personalities.

Every single character starts to live.

You have to figure out where they lived, the location, the place, city, region, country, geographical characteristics, etc.

You have to imagine how their houses look like, how the persons look like, how they dress, what they eat and drink, what kind of things they like to do, etc, etc.

If you’re planning to write a historical novel you have to look up the history books to get detailed information.

You have to first create numerous different persons, characters, who seem to be factually and really alive while in fact they’re just products of your imagination.

That’s pleasantly insane and on the edge of becoming schizophrenic.

“War and peace” by Lev Tolstoy contains numerous characters and there are so many similar novels.

And they don’t have to be novels with realistic stories.

Think of the “Lord of the rings”  by John R.R.Tolkien or the Harry Potter books by Joanne K.Rowling.

But I prefer novels based on real life.


I prefer writers who have gone through life unconventionally and went through deep valleys that shaped their personal character.

I mean, one can learn a lot in the intellectual way through textbooks and the like but there is no better school to become a good writer than the school of life itself .

That, at least, is my own modest opinion.

If you have a boring average life which seems to just calmly float on, and the only worry you have is what to wear when you get up in the morning, and the only frustration you get is when you find you forgot to buy milk, there’s little inspiration.

When Joanne Rowling started to write her first Harry Potter book, she was really poor, and only had an empty purse and a heap of problems and worries,  and she wrote the book in a pub.

Now she is one of the richest women in England.

It doesn’t say anything about the literary and artistic level of a book, but heaving experienced some heavy things in life might give you the inspirational edge, so to speak.

A writer like Ernest Hemmingway joined the Italian army, and later got into the Spanish civil war, and wrote books based on what he must have seen and witnessed and experienced; books such as “A farewell to arms” and “For whom the bell tolls”.

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn spent 8 years of his life in prison-camps after writing something bad about Stalin.

He was imprisoned from 1945 to 1953.

It must have shaped and formed and influenced him emotionally and mentally.

If you can come out strong, out of such bad periods in your life, you’ll be a stronger person.

The other way is that you go down.

Such events leave long-lasting impressions in your mind, heart and soul .

And scars.

The German writer Günther Grass worked as a farmer, a miner and labourer after World War II before he got into art as a sculptor and a graphic artist.

He wrote a great book I like called “The tin drum”.


Life is not a nice beautiful rose-garden , it’s not a paradise.

Life can be very hard and rough.

Life can tear you to pieces.

For most human beings life is an everyday struggle to survive.

Human beings also have ugly characteristics.

Selfishness, greed, violence, hate and such are ugly human properties.

People can do extremely ugly and bad things to each other.


Human interactions, human behaviour in real life is an open source of inspiration.

To create characters in a novel that differ from each other and behave like in real life itself in all it’s complexity and to compose a story around them and weave the story in between to connect them is fascinating.

That’s a challenge and at the same time a great thing to do.


I believe a story should reflect real life.


I give you some scenarios.


There’s a young girl raped and murdered and buried in the garden of the neighbour next-door.

The neighbour happens to be a policeman.

The nation follows the story in horror.

Everybody is baffled.

How could this happen?

The parents are in deep grief and  hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens openly show their sympathy with the parents and relatives of the murdered girl.

Questions arise.

Why was it a policeman?

Why did he do it?

What about the family of the policeman?

What about his girlfriend?

What about the parents of the murdered girl?

What about her brother and sister?

What will happen to all those grieving relatives left in this world wondering why this happened?

Why did it  happen to their little girl?

How will life go on for them?

It’s a gruesome story.

Is it a fantasized story?

No, it really happened.


A little girl is taken to a pedophile by her mother.

He sexually abuses the girl in the presence of her mother who is paid money.

Years later the same girl, now a young woman, gets into some nasty relationships with wife-beaters, men who beat her up severely.

Somehow she seems to meet the wrong persons.

She’s giving birth to two children herself.

Still years later, when she’s in her early thirties, her 12-year old daughter tells her she’s been raped by a man she knows.

Something snaps in her mind.

She takes a knife and murders the man.

She is sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

Her two children are taken away from her.

Years later she is released from prison .

What will happen to her?

Did she had the right to kill the man who raped her daughter?

Or was it because it happened to her when she was a little girl?

What is right and what is wrong in this story?

Who is wrong and who is right in this story?

What is justice?

It’s a gruesome story.

Is it a fantasized story?

No, it really happened.


In an Asian country before World War II a boy grows up.

He comes from a European family living there.

While still a young boy his parents die and he is raised by his eldest sister.

Years later he decides to go into the military and joins the army.

After a while he gets married and starts working as a civilian.

World War II ignites and in the South-East Asian region the Japanese invade and conquer country after country and also the country he lives in.

He is mobilised again and as a sergeant he leads his unit into battle until he is captured and forced to surrender.

The Japanese transport him and thousands like him to the island of Kyushu in Japan to work their as prisoners of war in the coalmines for 3 years.

After they are liberated by the Americans he returns to his country and finds his wife has disappeared from the face of the earth and he has lost everything.

How shall he go on in his life?

How can he live with the horrors of war he saw?

How can he overcome the humiliations by the Japanese as a prisoner of war?

Does he still believe in humanity?

Is it a fantasized story?

No it is a true story.

It was my father.


It are just three examples of real-life stories that can serve as inspiration sources to create novels from.


It’s what Hemmingway did .

He wrote “A farewell to arms” based on his experience when he joined the Italian army.

It is what James Michener did.

He wrote his first novel “Tales of the South Pacific” based on what he witnessed and experienced as a lieutenant in the U.S.Navy based in the  South Pacific.

Günther Grass based his book “The tin drum” on his own experiences in Germany before World War II.


It is how a lot of writers work.

They write their novels based on their own experiences from their own lives.


Human life can be a drama.

Human drama can work inspiring, be inspirational for novelists.