Masterpiece novels. How to write a good novel (I)
Writing a good novel is very different to write a best-selling novel.
The question is this: how can I write a good novel, a good book or something like that? If from the first moment I would like to be clear: I don’t know how to write a good novel but I think I’ve written good novels (and if you ask more, maybe I will say that I’ve written ‘very good novels’). But I can analyse in the History of Literature those pieces that are now masterpieces and we can get the points that make the difference among others.
Let’s take a first example: Moby Dick. Melville published the book and he spent year after year waiting for the successful of his masterpiece. Is there any reason? Maybe the public were not well prepared or maybe it wasn’t in time… or maybe the art of selling books is not the art of writing books… but Moby Dick is a masterpiece because it’s based on the great principles of the Humankind… and I am talking about ‘principles’ as paradoxes and doubts and hates and loves. These principles are the common sense for the Humankind and the great themes of Literature. Is Hamlet a masterpiece? Of course it is because it’s based on these principles: to be or not be… No, Shakespeare expresses the doubt from the first chapter because Hamlet talks universally, not particularly. To kill or not to kill? We must admit that phrase sounds worse than the great ‘to be or not to be’. In Moby Dick, Melville is talking about the craziness of a man, of course, but he is talking about the craziness of a ship and we can clearly see as the craziness of that ship is our own craziness. The Man against the Nature. Is there anything more paradox, ridiculous and genial? Talking about Don Quixote or the Hunchback of Notre Dame, these great artists have created not only particular characters but universal characters.
Dostoyevsky talked very much about his novel The Idiot and the difficult way of writing a novel with a plenty good character. He says that there were only two really good characters in the History of Literature: Jesus Christ and Don Quixote. He would be writing the third one. Maybe we would like to take five minutes to think about this to create our next character –and notice that I don’t agree with Dostoyevsky-: is a man just good or bad? Was Faust a good man or he became a bad one? Now, maybe we can really understand the character and maybe this is the final objective of a good novelist: to understand the character and transform it into him to understand the little world of a novel that, if it’s great, it will be the mirror or the world.
Great novels, my friends, are always the mirror of this unending world we can see every day. You can find this character observing your neighbor or in Cape Horn with the darkest storm or you can find it in a quiet lady of the 19th century. This is the paradox: you can find a great character everywhere but, I advise you, you can lose it as easy as you get it.
Find a character, and you will have the begging of a good book.