Marisha Pessl Answers 5 Questions On Writing

Marisha Pessl Answers 5 Questions On Writing


In this post, American Author, Marisha Pessl answers 5 questions on writing.

Marisha Pessl is an American writer. She is well known for her debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and her second novel, Night Film. Her latest book is Neverworld Wake.

She was born 26 October 1977.

She says: ‘My favourite part of this job is the creation—building a universe from scratch, populating the planet with characters, landmarks, and hidden tunnels… Writing is a meditation, a brutal trek through the wilderness, and a magic trick all at once.’

She credits these artists as people who have influenced her: Agatha Christie, John Hughes, Mark Twain, David Lynch, Shel Silverstein, and Truman Capote.

She answered these five questions in her newsletter last year.

Marisha Pessl Answers 5 Questions On Writing

1. How Do You Stay Motivated And Avoid Burnout?

You do it anyway — no matter the mood, the weather, what you had for lunch, what the President just said, what’s trending on Twitter, the latest global crises reported on CNN—your project is everything. I often find I write the most interesting work when I show up exhausted. Keep at it.* Relentless is a word I’ve become quite good friends with.

*Unless there is a zombie apocalypse happening, in which case, why are you reading this newsletter? Grab your loved ones and start driving to the wilds of West Virginia.

2. How Do You Deal With Showing Versus Telling?

Showing is always better than telling, on the whole. However, there is the strong caveat that if your narrative voice is compelling, don’t even worry about this rule. For example, The Catcher in the Rye is all telling, but that division between Holden’s telling and the poignancy of what is actually going on allows the reader great moments of discovery. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, all have a great deal of telling in their work, but the 3rd person narrative voice is so captivating and transportive, you want to listen and you will follow it anywhere (even into a vacant dentist’s office with nothing but a dead yukka plant and stacks of three month old magazines). The goal is to create an imperfect enchanted wood for readers, showing and telling, giving them a few signs, telling them where unicorns were last seen, then letting them explore.

3. At What Stage Should You Look For Feedback?

The more I write the more I know what is missing. Now I like to have a polished third draft in place before I share it with my editor. I allow my mom to read my rough draft as I go—she’s a voracious reader and she has read and commented on my stories since I was a kid. But for everyone else, I only release it when I truly feel satisfied—character, plot, themes.

4. Do You Do Sketches For Important Characters?

Yes. I do a lot of scribbling pen on paper, just sort of drifting and allowing myself to discover, then I find a few images to support what they look like. These visuals go alongside notes, lists, and more in my book bible for each project – like this one for Neverworld Wake.

5. How Do You Balance Suspense And Character Development?

While I’ve always been a plotter and love concocting my little twists and turns, at the same time, if you have a marvellous character—Nabokov’s Pnin, for example—there doesn’t even need to be a wild plot in place. You just want to get to know them and walk alongside them. Character is everything. There is infinite mystery and wonder in the behaviours and thoughts of one human being.

Visit her website here: Marisha Pessl

Source for questions and answers/Source for image

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Anne

    I am so glad that I read this article! Since I started butting my head against “show, don’t tell” I have had an uncomfortable feeling about this “rule”. Yes, I understand that there are benefits to showing – and I am trying to do so … in moderation. It was reassuring to read, “there is the strong caveat that if your narrative voice is compelling, don’t even worry about this rule. ” I may not be a Holden, but I am by nature a story-teller, and trying to inject more showing by main force feels unnatural and stilted. Thank-you Marisha. I’ll stick with my guns – I promise to show, where it feels appropriate, but where my “narrative voice” want to tell; I’ll follow my instincts.

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