Readers are often curious about a writer’s secrets. Have you got some ?
I can’t share any because I don’t have one. The act of writing is one of the most mysterious there is. Everyone fails to explain what is happening and how it happens. We can acquire techniques, but it is not thanks to them that a book will be born that will engage the reader. What matters for this one is to be captivated by a story and, once you have finished the book, to be able to say to yourself: I have understood something about life that I did not know. The writer himself sought to unlock the secret of the plot by writing it, but the key eluded him. Its truth is passed into the story, it is inseparable from it. And the reader will help him discover it.
What questions do you ask yourself when you start writing?
When I agreed to lead writing workshops, I listened very attentively to the participants’ fears. Where do you find inspiration? Can we take up the pen when we have no imagination? How to write a family novel without getting angry with your family? How to start a story? When do we know it is finished? Contrary to what those who ask them fear, these questions are neither vain nor stupid and I have tried to answer them sincerely.
So, let’s start with this one: “How do you pick up a pen when you have no imagination?” »
This is by far the most common and is more of a complaint than a question. I myself have been through this anxiety. In 1986, I was bored between two books when I visited a friend who had discovered a box full of family photos in a false ceiling of his apartment. A batch of disparate photos taken between 1880 and 1943. Immediately, I was fascinated by the diversity of the characters and asked him to lend it to me. Was this material for a new novel? When I got home, I placed these photos on my desk. I invented names, places, imagined a plot, recreated the album of an imaginary family. Shortly after, writing my story Family secret was beginning.
Some confide to you: “I don’t dare write for others, only for myself. » What do you answer them?
The space of the diary is a cocoon, the place of narcissism, where we relieve ourselves and where no one bothers us. However, even in this personal exercise, we seek an attentive ear, we write to be read by a guardian angel, an indifferent mother, an imaginary lover… Writing always represents an act of communication. And from this protected place, the desire can come to explore other rooms of the house: the poem, the autobiography, the novel. You know, any act of narration is a fictional act: even in a diary, we tell our life as we imagine it and we reconstruct it.
It’s up to everyone to find their own form: the only rule is to keep the reader captive until the end of the story. As a young teenager, I wrote letters to my friends, not to play the Marquise de Sévigné, but to reinvent my life. And I posted them, so that no one could read them at home. I had invented a fantasy house where people were waiting for news of me and would welcome me. In the emotional lack I was in, this process helped save me.
Another key question: “What is a good story?” »
A good story is a shared story. Even very intimate events are shareable. We believe we are the only one to experience these joys or these tragedies while others have experienced them and are just waiting to read them to feel less alone. A good story is first of all a good central character who constitutes the framework of the story and carries the destiny of the book. So much so that he can give it his title. Take Madame Bovary. Neither superwoman nor saint, Emma Bovary is anonymous, with whom the reader can identify. Flaubert declared: “Madame Bovary, it’s me.” Through it, the writer made the boredom in the couple, the confinement in a small provincial town and the dream of love his own. He expressed the illusions of passion and was aimed at young girls and the thinking elite.
In each family there is a totem character who has influenced the history of the clan for good or ill. Who left his mark, his actions, his victories or his failures on the collective consciousness of the group. Carve his character into readers’ memories like a profile on a coin. Certain characters in literature are so well drawn that their names have entered into common usage: a Rastignac designates an arriviste, a Lolita describes a very young girl who arouses the desire of adults, a Thénardier evokes greed and baseness. Once the book is closed, the character must continue his life in the heart of the reader, persisting within him, like radioactivity.
The Seer and the Believer
During the time of the story, the reader agrees to take your word for it, it is up to you to repay him with pleasure. Become a clairvoyant so that whoever reads you becomes a believer. Free your imagination so that it resonates with his. The reader will never blame you for inventing everything, from the moment he believed you, from the moment he was on board, until the end.
- May 22, 1950 Born in Lorient (Morbihan).
- 1972 Aggregation of classic letters.
- From 1972 to 1981 Professor of classics at high school, then at university.
- 1979 Publication of When the Bretons populated the seas.
- 1982 The Nabob, sold more than a million copies.
Exploring the family vein
Stories inspired by great feminist figures