Iain Banks on the writing process (2/6)

Iain Banks on the writing process (2/6)

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Open University Lecturer in Creative Writing Derek Neale talks to author Iain Banks about his writing process, from how he creates characters to how he plots.

(Part 2 of 6)

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your books contain characters containing a range of character voices extraordinary range of distinctive voices and I'm just wondering whether you you think in audio terms when you're writing when you're creating these characters absolutely not no Batman oh and I think that I never do friction it's one of these things it is something when people mentioned summarize the I assume you do this you never got some Wayne I never have a proper sort of properly developed image of my characters on either a lot of other writers and from now think about it's much more sensible you know way to do their imagining a film star or maybe some didn't know but there's a definitely passionate little world in front of a very famous of one of the you know this only Lee knows it where the model the characters on and I've never done that you know just never deliberately occurred to me so I just have a vague image or on but kind of what I've described on the page is they might show no harm so and the same thing with audio so I'm gonna set was a sort of internal dialogue generator that I've got got inside my head it's the thing that your whole prenup is working properly it makes the dialogue and the novel's reads you know you know believably not clinically and that's one of the harder things to do and in stories with snob or short or whatever it's to get dialogue actually sounds you know possible and not just sort of well tell me all about this nightly but they had the thing a science fiction that I know here comes the info-dump you know yes but what I was what I find in your novels is that the voices are distinct you know there's a contrast between them so you've obviously gone through some sort of process of things are that character speaks like this oh yeah this one speaks like that that much is definitely there that's idea of the character and how they would express themselves among not actually hearing the voices and such no no I'm just struck by Jonathan Franzen recently declared that he didn't have a clue what his main female character look like other than that she was five foot ten and then in that conversation the reader spoke up and said well I know what she looked like and and I suppose that's what you're doing you're trusting you'll read it oh yeah I miss chemically she benign but no one reads exactly the same novel everyone reads a novel that is customized for them via their own brain you simply provide the words the raw material on your illusion my control but in the end they make up their own images and also here in the rooms or voices and so on and yeah the person said it wasn't being about being facetious saying that they knew what they look like they did for them you know I defend that people we had to see that know what you're saying what no I mean character looks like apart from the height you know that's just bizarre but I was sort of pretty good it matters you know someone's like you know three through six here that has an impact an entire being the entire life a little of Thoroughly knows so two meters tall yeah odd yeah what makes it sure he wasn't just kidding it on there I think it yeah I mean I think fiction writers have a tendency to talk fiction sometimes don't talking about your writing process you with you during incredibly prolific you produce on average a book a year and some of them are big books as well and yet you don't I know that you don't write for all of the year mmm which which is going to make some writers very envious I know and I'm just wondering whether you could elaborate on your that's the template for you know how a novel comes into being within a year well I mean the extent of raw material incentive stuff that comes up all the time you know every few days or ever you'll have a sums of idea it might be quite a big idea in terms of the were also plot thing or story very office and comes down to the level of a single word you know could be a bad pun or something you know more offices line a dialogue or just a name or something some sort of idea you know sort of you know neat bit of Technology whatever so those just all get collected into a notebook after having this written a novel Hans have done the the first draft and usually not twos of laborious but of the second draft and talking to the publishers about any amendments and so on I can have about three months and I don't really do very much at all and then another three months for to the uninformed I at Luke's I'm still not doing very much I've started to think about the next book or at least started to think about thinking about it and there's another three months worth of doing proper plotting I'm actually sort of deliberately thinking about a very organized and fearless of formals away there's this go in charge in notebooks listen or yeah this is uh you know I was open a document you know in the computer about that it's usually starts with a list of all the ideas I had and then give actually just a weeding out and the stuff I'm going to use for that book stays and stuff that I'm not going to definite not going to use because becomes a new sales of wrong idea you know the raw material for for future Knowles well so there's three months of doing absolutely nothing three months of thinking three months of proper planning and then three months of actual writing at the max at the most from sometimes the Monday I'm going to be right next I'm hoping we're able to do it unless well said about two months moving we could to last hopefully the trick is it's the three months of planning is really important because that's where you can make all your mistakes and you can so write yourself in the corners because you're not physically writing anything down and not you know committing keystrokes and that's where you can decide oh I better not do that or you know if that's what your metaphorically sitting looking at the blank sheet of paper or the the blank screen should never be doing that once you start writing what that's for me rather like just after yeah I know I mean they work is to have a single idea or image and go was that see what happens and that case you had something to do end up just in thinking well happens and eggs and it's that's what works for them you know that's fine but for me I need to know you know pretty much where I'm going you know kind of for me off and when you do start writing you've does much change from the actual that three months of Ferriero Nestle and very little it changed a bit more towards they and I've kind of a bit less strict and they used to be I've kind of loosen up a bit so that towards the end if you look at there's a column as it where of event this is where I guess it was a fruit like the top so they've got potential for going in different directions are going to you know when I was happened in time so I'm not quite so determined to stick to an absolutely you know kneeled down plan but it's feeling things in that bed as well and the case of suffice detail for example had this big some sure dome mark for the end and that kind of had that had to happen so you know it's really looking forward to writing that fit and so they can't deviate too much other things could could go in one other directions with that big fire ease of ending same tactic so the certain show pieces that seems that you know that I've got to be in that yes a very simple to move some books have those or something you know it can still be laughed a bit more looser you know well we talked a little bit already about surface detail and and you are of course in banks and enm box you're a mainstream novelist and a science fiction novelist but I anyone looking at both both strands of your work would see of the genre in there as well there's gothic in there there's thriller in there there's crime in there there's a psychological thriller there's all sorts of things Service detail something to describe it recently as a reverent revenge thriller hmm which is you know understandable I think what do you think of genre you know what I'm very happy with Jean well he's on Rue I think if I was taking a feel he's a relaxed view of the requirement for the novel is to appear too serious you know I don't take myself seriously at all I think they worked fairly seriously but even then I a private concerns I think there's too much mystification of writers think writers of writing I think writers are very much responsible for this is this sort of we can become of the dis pretend oh all this comes to us and we must wait for inspiration or the rest of it we can ignore this or craft aspect what I think I'm solve in earnest of a mission I wouldn't say one part one man one person missions it was all away do the same thing but the trying to demystify evasive although the city is a craft and there was a weasel doing this and I'm not going to pretend that you know I sweat and agonize over every light I'm just I'm the kind of writer that happens to have lots of ideas I write very quickly and I'm guilty of having said once someone have said have you ever suffered from writer's block and ice office issues you said yes once for the entire morning afternoon and an evening whenever I said should be quick to switch from a glib you know but I just did I'm just lucky that way it's dawn and enjoy writing and it's like it's about the feel like the the ability to concentrate hard for long periods but even then it's more like fun I mean Mike was before now I'm of all anyone who's a computer game developer always will have the experience of sitting down at but half Ken at night thinking right I'll display for half an hour and you don't you don't think I'm half an hour then to go to bed at respectable hour and read a bit you know what happens is you're woken up you know from your your revelry 4 o'clock in the morning by your bladder you are demanding to be emptied and all you've done is for the last of six hours just playing the game all that I gave that sometimes writing and ones that have I experienced were some sort of way of this of pain back in that it in the real world and that the team good grief you know it for my Scott to Lou because I'm enjoying myself and we make concentrating so hard and I look at them at home God have written for four or five thousand words that doesn't happen immediately not necessarily happen every novel but to a small degree it happens you know instead of minor-key the hands as everyone can just time this seems to go so far so I love writing and that makes some you know a big difference to that and I'm not you know pretend that don't know I finally quite easy very enjoyable which is great which is great and as you as you say in contrast to some writers all you

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