Advice from Ursula Le Guin

Last night in my Gotham Writing class we discussed Ursula Le Guin’s writing advice, and, as you can imagine, she had a lot of good advice. One of the things she said that struck me was that the idea that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end is a typically European idea because it puts emphasis on the end–“on where the story goes, what you get to.”    She suggested that it might also be helpful to think of a story as a house to be explored.  “You want the entrance to be attractive, you want the front door to be invitingly open, showing a glimpse of what’s inside. Once you’re lured your reader inside, you may direct her in a definite route right through the house and the events happening in it to the back door. Or you may just provide the rooms and halls and staircases and events, and let the reader find her own way around–let her live there for a while. Or you may conduct her smllingly up to the attic and show her the yellow wallpaper and lock her in. Or you may show her views of undreamed of landscapes through the windows, charmed magic easements opening on the foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn, so she never wants to leave the house at all, and has to be pushed out the back door–or shown that there’s a sequel right next door.” Of course, I then had everyone draw pictures of the house they thought their novel would be. Some of us,myself included, drew warm houses with porches and open doors. Others set there houses in the woods and they had an ominous bleak look. I found it so helpful. What would the house of your novel look like?

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