Archives for posts with tag: science fiction writers

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“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

“I never consciously place symbolism in my writing…The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural. During a lifetime, one saves up information which collects itself around centers in the mind; these automatically become symbols on a subliminal level and need only be summoned in the heat of writing.”

“I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration. The artist learns what to leave out…”

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic.”

The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘DON’T THINK!’”

“I absolutely demand of you and everyone I know that they be widely read in every damn field there is; in every religion and every art form and don’t tell me you haven’t got time! There’s plenty of time. You need all of these cross-references. You never know when your head is going to use this fuel, this food for its purposes.”

“I always say to students, give me four pages a day, every day. That’s three or four hundred thousand words a year. Most of that will be bilge, but the rest …? It will save your life!”

Photo: Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) in his 20s.

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A few years before his death in 2012 at age 91, Ray Bradbury shared his thoughts about his life and his writing with interviewer Sam Weller in The Paris Review (Summer 2012). Here are excerpts from the interview that focus on Bradbury’s sources of inspiration and techniques for getting inspired. 

WRITERS WHO INSPIRED:

I used to study Eudora Welty. She has the remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line. In one line! You must study these things to be a good writer. Welty would have a woman simply come into a room and look around. In one sweep she gave you the feel of the room, the sense of the woman’s character, and the action itself. All in twenty words. And you say, How’d she do that? What adjective? What verb? What noun? How did she select them and put them together?

I was an intense student. Sometimes I’d get an old copy of [Thomas] Wolfe and cut out paragraphs and paste them in my story, because I couldn’t do it, you see. I was so frustrated! And then I’d retype whole sections of other people’s novels just to see how it felt coming out. Learn their rhythm. 

JUMPSTARTING THE IMAGINATION:

…in the old days I knew I had to dredge my subconscious…I did it by making lists of nounsand then asking, What does each noun mean? …The night. The crickets. The train whistle. The basement. The attic. The tennis shoes. The fireworks…Then, when you get the list down, you begin to word-associate around it. You ask, Why did I put this word down? What does it mean to me? Why did I put this noun down and not some other word? Do this and you’re on your way to being a good writer…Make a list of ten things you hate and tear them down in a short story or poem. Make a list of ten things you love and celebrate them. 

...I started to write short, descriptive paragraphs, two hundred words each, and in them I began to examine my nouns. Then I’d bring some characters on to talk about that noun and that place, and all of a sudden I had a story going. I used to do the same thing with photographs that I’d rip out of glossy magazines. I’d take the photographs and I’d write little prose poems about them.

…When I look at the paintings of Edward Hopper, it does this. He did those wonderful townscapes of empty cafes, empty theaters at midnight with maybe one person there. The sense of isolation and loneliness is fantastic. I’d look at those landscapes and I’d fill them with my imagination…