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How to Write: Tips from Andrew Brown

Inspired by the Guardian’s recent article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Andrew BrownColdsleep LullabyStreet BluesRefugeAndrew Brown is the author of Coldsleep Lullaby, which won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and Street Blues, which was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. His most recent novel is Refuge.

Andrew Brown’s tips:

1. Write where you know: characters and plot have to play out on a believable stage. In some novels that stage is a bland generic canvas that contributes little to the reader’s experience. But a well-constructed setting can anchor a story and provide the reader with a sense of place; it can also make the writing itself easier, as characters can move around the stage with greater confidence. Set your writing in a place you know – if you don’t know it, go there.

2. Write who you know: You can only write about what you know, and when it comes to characterisation, you only know yourself. You may have to draw deep to find the emotional source for some characters, but no matter how troubling that may be, ultimately you have the comfort of knowing that neither your hero nor your dark and bloody protagonist are in fact you.

3. Don’t get cute: Sometimes a twist in a plot can be too clever for its own good. A good editor will eradicate it (mine did, thank goodness) and spare you the embarrassment, but it’s better not to end up there in the first place.

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