Skip to content
Culture & Religion

How to Write Great Fiction

Top writers—from Salman Rushdie to John Irving to Margaret Atwood to Bret Easton Ellis—talk about inspiration, the discipline of writing, and how to create memorable characters.

Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning author of “Midnight’s Children,” says he thinks the idea of inspiration is “nonsense.”  Isabelle Allende, who has written 18 novels (including the critically acclaimed “House of the Spirits”) says it’s important to write every day. Canadian author Margaret Atwood says that a writer should carry a notebook at all times.

These are just a few bits of wisdom and advice from the acclaimed authors in Big Think’s new series “How to Write Great Fiction.” Writers from John Irving to Bret Easton Ellis to Walter Mosley to Jonathan Lethem talk about how difficult it can be to get words onto the page, and what it means to embrace the life of a writer.

“I begin with nothing and I unfortunately usually end with nothing, in terms of the day-to-day process,” says Jonathan Safran Foer. “I’ve never had characters before I started writing.  I’ve never had a moral.  I’ve never had a story to tell.  I’ve never had some voice that I found and wanted to share.  Auden, the poet, said, ‘I look at what I write so I can see what I think.’  And that’s been very true for me in my process.  I don’t have a thought that I then try to articulate.  It’s only through the act of writing that I try to find my own thoughts.  So, it can be quite scary because you know, it’s… there’s a kind of faith, I guess, that you have to have either in yourself or in the process that something good will come from filling blank pages.” 


Up Next