Empathy

If you love literature and intelligent conversation, you must subscribe to The Guardian Books podcast. Today's episode is absolutely timely given the heartbreaking result of yesterday's Brexit vote (ie. Britain's decision to leave the EU) and the shameful campaign of bigotry and ignorance that preceded it.

With so much right wing hate and fear-mongering swirling around at home and abroad, it is a balm to hear these writers talk about how literature can build empathy and give people back their humanity.

The poet David Herd speaks eloquently in this podcast about refugee stories and how they go unheard: "the story will be told to the UK [Border Agency] or the Home Office or told in some hearing and on every one of those occasions it's being distorted or broken up and then one version is compared against another and on any of those occasions if there's any reason to doubt the story, then the story is throw out. And so what's been impossible for so many people is the opportunity to tell their story in a way and a context in which the story can actually be heard."

I've just begun revisions to my novel and Herd's insight really resonated as both utterly true and utterly heartbreaking. But what gives me hope is the writers on this podcast, all of them attempting to give people back their stories, to share those stories with the world.

Listen to the full podcast here.

 

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Here's some solid advice I got a year and a half ago about plot and structure: banish the words "and then" and replace them with "but", "therefore", and "meanwhile."

But is the idea of conflict and opposition. The good guy wants something but the bad guy stands in the way.

Therefore there must be an escalation of action and tension. The good guy does something to get around the bad guy but he hits a roadblock he must overcome.

Meanwhile suggests a parallel narrative, two plots happening in tandem. When one story hits a climactic peak, you cut away ("Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...") to the other.

Editor Tony Zhou explains in this video and if you still don't get it, have a look at this post on Vox.