Award-winning writers Dr China Miéville and Professor David Morley from the University of Warwick took time from their busy Perth Writers Festival schedules to give Murdoch staff and students insight into their craft.
A three-time winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and double winner of the British Fantasy Award, Dr Miéville spoke with Murdoch lecturer and writer Dr Simone Lazaroo about approaches to teaching creative writing and his process, before an informal Q&A with the audience.
He encouraged aspiring writers to avoid the popular practice of focussing on character motivation.
“Not only is it not necessary to know your characters’ motivations, it’s impossible. Do you know your friends’ motivations? Do you know your own motivations? So how can you possibly know the motivations of someone who doesn’t exist?” he said.
Instead Dr Miéville advocated following the character’s intuition.
He also took aim at spare/minimalist prose, which he said had too long enjoyed privileging within the classroom and within certain types of Master of Fine Arts programs.
“The implicit assumption that this is the way to do prose and that prose gets better and better the more you strip it down is very peculiar … The idea is that it gets closer to the real, but that’s simply not true,” he said.
Dr Miéville did advocate intensive plotting, as well as ‘sneaking up on the novel’ by setting out to write small amounts daily.
Professor Morley, the award-winning writer of nine poetry books and editor of six anthologies, encouraged his audience to write poems based on aspects of Murdoch University’s natural surroundings.
He also shared his thoughts on teaching creative writing, saying creative writing should strive to become independent and interdependent with all other subjects, including English.
“We jumped at the opportunity to hear Dr Miéville and Professor Morley speak, particularly as some of our creative writing and literature courses this year will include writing from them,” Dr Lazaroo said.
“Their talks at Murdoch gave students an invaluable insight into their approaches to writing. As we believe it’s important for students to be exposed to a range of published texts and approaches to writing, we hope to have similar sessions with other writers in the future.”