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Monkeys with Typewriters

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?broken someone else's heart Have you ever won an argument but later realized you were wrong Have you ever tripped in public or spilled wine on someone else's carpet Have you ever tried to help someone who didn't want to be helped or even someone who did Have you ever been in trouble big or small Have you ever felt. This is an enga

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A manual for reading and writing better from the acclaimed author of The End of Mr Y and Our Tragic Universe  Exploring how fiction works this manual shows you how you can learn to understand it well enough to crack open any fictional narrative and if you like start creating your own Have you ever had your heart broken or?. Over the years Vania manual for reading and writing better from the acclaimed author of The End of Mr Y and Our Tragic Universe  Exploring how fiction works this Errata manual shows you how you can learn to understand it well enough to crack open any fictional narrative and if you like start creating your own Have you ever had your heart broken or?. Over the years

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Trapped Have you ever gossiped felt bad about it and then found that you've been the subject of gossip yourself Have you ever basically felt like a chimp in a pair of jeans caught up in endless drama and with no idea of how the universe works This is an ode to secret power of stories and a guide to cracking those powers open. This was amazin

10 thoughts on “Monkeys with Typewriters

  1. says:

    The infinite monkey theorem says that given enough time a monkey with a typewriter will almost certainly produce the complete works of Shakespeare just from tapping the keys at random As Scarlett Thomas points out in the introduction to this creative writing book though writers don’t work that way – they write with purpose though of course that’s not the be all and end all of a finished work and don’t have unlimited time This is one of the recurring themes of Monkeys with Typewriters that writing is than a technical exercise even if you can see some of its workingsIt’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have chosen to read this book had the publisher not sent me a copy on spec because I’ve no ambitions to write fiction But Thomas has such a distinctive style of writing fiction that I was intrigued to see what she had to say It turns out that Monkeys with Typewriters is interesting for readers as well as aspiring writers Thomas is less concerned with telling her readers ‘how to write’ as encouraging to think deeply about how what they read and write worksThe first half of the book is devoted to ‘Theory’ and especially to examining the mechanics of plots Thomas goes from Plato through Aristotle and Nietzsche to Northrop Frye and Christopher Booker examining and sometimes criticising the different ways plots have been analysed and classified There’s plenty of food for thought here even for a non writer – I like Thomas’s distinction between story the chronological events that happen and plot how those events are arranged by the writer which I hadn’t thought of in the way before It’s also fascinating to see the connections Thomas makes such as when she highlights the similar basic narrative arcs of Toy Story Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and an episode of Supernanny Underneath it all is an enthusiasm for writers to find and do their own thing; after presenting her idea of ‘the eight basic plots’ Thomas invites her readers to devise their own taxonomyAfter ‘Theory’ comes ‘Practice’ Some of the material in this section such as the chapters on having ideas and the practicalities of writing is inevitably going to be of specialised interest – but even then it’s not unengaging The rest will surely get any reader thinking anew about characterisation narration and how sentences work Thomas is an excellent guide through her examples drawing on classic and contemporary texts alike from Anna Karenina and Middlemarch to The God of Small Things and number9dream For her it’s not about one size fitting all but about whatever works in context And this section might well cause you to add one or two books to your to read list; it only took Thomas to uote one short sentence ‘The lawn was white with doctors’ to convince me I ought to read The Bell JarWhether you want to write or not Monkeys with Typewriters is the kind of book that renews your enthusiasm for reading in general a book that believes – and encourages its readers to believe – that great fiction matters Thomas ends her book with a checklist of key uestions for writers The last one is ‘If the only copy of my novel was stranded on the top of a mountain would I go up to rescue it?’ Perhaps the key message of Monkeys with Typewriters is that the only fiction worth writing – and reading – is the sort for which you would head up that mountain And I’d say a book which argues that is one worth reading

  2. says:

    Over the years I’ve amassed a whole shelf of ‘how to’ books on writing Some have disappointed me Their blurbs promise the allure of unlocking the deepest darkest secrets of constructing the perfect narrative but don’t always follow through Others are invaluable and I find I recommend them time and time again to writing students and consultancy clients But for the most part they tend to focus on one aspect of the craft A lecturer in creative writing at the University of Kent Scarlett Thomas has gathered together in Monkeys With Typewriters a wide ranging amount of material – on plot characters narrative mode and the craft of line by line writing – and boiled it down in a common sense way She writes with such warmth and reader friendliness that you feel like you’re getting a personal one to one tutorialThe book contains an impressive summary of theory especially on plot – thousands of years’ worth of it into readable and manageable form You don’t have to go away and read Aristotle or Plato because Thomas boils it down to what you need and presents it in a practical way But having been shown the way it would guide you through what you need to know from these classicsMore than that though Thomas’ book is a rare gem a guide to which can also be read by non writers who want to understand the power of story Some parts are a guide to creative processes in general the chapter ‘How To Have Ideas’ comes out of Thomas’ research into ideation idea generation and is a brilliant method which could be put to use in everyday life not just when planning novels ‘How To Write A Novel’ somehow demystifies a process that our culture somehow turns into a dark art Not that Thomas is saying it is an easy thing Just that if you want to write and you think you have it in you you can approach novel writing with a light heart ‘If writing feels to you like a job or a chore then your idea isn’t good enough It’s as simple as that’Monkeys With Typewriters will have a prominent place on my ‘how to’ bookshelf from now on And yes I’ll be recommending it to everyone I know who writes andor loves stories

  3. says:

    I don't think you need to be writing or ever have any intention of writing a book to enjoy Thomas' Monkeys with Typewriters For anyone studying literature or even film and screenplays in fairness or people who love their literature and want an insight into the inner workings of fiction this is well worth a readScarlett Thomas is one of my favourite writers and also a lecturer at some uni somewhere on creative writing From her lectures on the various aspects of fiction writing she has put together this book and very good it is too There are two parts theory and practice On types of stories what makes a story work characters voice good and bad writing getting started and so forth She makes much reference to her own writing as well as several famous novels classics and contemporary film and even some tv programes Because essentially stories are EVERYWHERE You will find yourself analysing the book or film you're watching at the time and wondering what type of story it is By the end of this you appreciate how much thought and work has to go into a novel and just what an overwhelming achievement this is when its a good novel Now whether every one has to be conscious of planning every little detail that is explained in this book or whether a whole lot comes naturally is an entirely different matterThere's certainly plenty of tips suggestions and food for thought in here I sometimes felt as though it was saying 'my way is the only way' which I don't really agree with People's minds work very differently Not just on a level of I like yellow socks you like striped socks but how we view the world how we experience how we interpret how we work some people like months of prep for the best work others work best under pressure and limited time So I'd take some of this book as suggestions rather than YOU MUST For instance she suggests writing 250 words a day Which may work for some people but personally I couldn't think of anything worse It makes it sound like homework and why do you need to be watching the word count anyway? You should be too involved in your writing Just have fun and let it flow It doesn't even necessarily have to become a novel She also makes a comment that seems to imply that everyone is writing for the readers even if they won't admit it she is and she can't understand why anyone would write just for themselves for then where is the point of writing it down at all? Hmmm see what I mean about different people's minds working in really different ways Some people really do write for the pleasure of it and just for themselves And there's nothing wrong with thatBut yes just a few minor niggles Definately worth a read Sadly before I came to this I was reading one of her most recent books The Seed Collectors having read everything written prior to that I did mention she's one of my favourites? and I really didn't like it It was all right for what it was but it really wasn't the kind of story or characters I come to rely on Thomas for so it was a disappointment And there's another point uite a lot of this is simply a matter of personal taste One man's treasure is another man's trash and all that

  4. says:

    I got through Part I of this book which is 131 pages in random intervals over about 7 days I swallowed Part II which is 228 pages in one sitting The difference between these two parts lies I believe in whom they are written for Part I of this book discusses the different types of plot in length peppered with examples from both contemporary and classic novels movies and TV Shows including Middlemarch Gentleman Prefer Blondes and Sex in the City If you are familiar with these references it really can help to apply the point She used examples from Plath's The Bell Jar my favorite book and this connection made me really get what she was talking about But when you're unfamiliar with one of them good luck At one point she provides detailed plot mapping between the two movies Gentleman Prefer Blondes and There's No Business Like Show Business Call me an uncultured teenager but I haven't seen either of these films and attempting to follow the 11 page discussion of them was difficult to say the least Some people may be content reading her uick summaries and then diving into how they apply to theory but as an annoying perfectionist it was a struggle to stop myself from putting down the book and going to watch or read whatever she was referencing in order to fully understand the example Besides I feel as though Part I is directed towards people who want to understand stories and plots not necessarily people who want to write As Thomas explains understanding plot types definitely aids in structuring plots of your own but if you're picking this book up because you're expecting something similar to King's On Writing I'd recommend you skim or even skip Part I Part II of this book in my opinion is invaluable It reminded me of why I want to write in the first place which you can sometimes forget after reading about the specifics of plot language and bad writing Thomas provides a matrix to help get your creative juices flowing which definitely helped me many hands on activities to demonstrate things like the economics of word usage and tips on characterization that got me thinking about whether I have a super objective lurking in my unconscious My favorite section was Writing A Good Sentence I know I’m definitely going to be rereading this part multiple times to remind myself of its divine advice Overall I would absolutely recommendAlso sorry for the un italicized book and movie titles Usually I'm better about that type of thing but I can't figure out the formatting on here

  5. says:

    This is an engaging and thoughtful work on writing fiction majoring particularly on analysis of plot and some of the nuts and bolts practicalities of how to write fiction particularly a novel Following Northrop Frye and Christopher Booker Thomas identifies what she sees as the major basic plots that fiction writers can draw from – for her there are 8 tragedy comedy uest rags to riches stranger comes to town coming of age mystery and modern realism which can have plot in the same way that pretty much most of our lives have plots that is not at all All of which seems fair enough and she offers enthusiastic readings of some great novels along the wayI haven't read any of Thomas' novels so can't comment on how well the teacher practises what she preaches but most of the practical advice was clear and constructive – generating testing and discarding ideas entering into the truth of a character's experience building up from scenes and so on I found the discussion on writing a good sentence too reductive though because of her obvious preference for fairly plain minimalist prose The subjective judgements around what makes for good writing are not made as explicit as they could be and I would have liked to have heard about musicality and rhythm balance and lop sidedness – ways to sooth or unsettle a reader at the level of a sentenceOver all though a useful read for aspiring writers trying to think carefully about their craft

  6. says:

    Even having just finished this book I can tell it's going to be something I read over and over and over This is a great building block for those learning to write which I need to put onto a list of great building blocks to recommend to people Thomas not only explores various aspects of creating and building a novel or generally fiction but how to reach the point of creating and how we can witness it in fiction we already love She helps us to see where to start building character how to further it and how it's used in works like Anna Karenina or Great ExpectationsThroughout the book there are interactive exercises for the potential writer to create ideas or engage with what good and bad writing is to them There were a few points where I started to worry that the lessons would become this is how you must write fiction but she always manages to stop and remind us of our creative liberties and nearly endless possibilitiesI'm in a writing workshop right now which she actually warns against in the last pages for reasons I entirely understand and I wish I could shove this book into the hands of my classmates It's not that I don't want to do the work of helping them figure out what they're doing it's that Scarlett Thomas has found ways to express many of the things I already want to tell them

  7. says:

    This was amazingThe greatest thing about it I think was that until the very end she didn't tell you what to do It was literally the embodiment of 'show don't tell' instead of saying Okay so your book works like this? Then do this she would talk about a type of plot through examples by analysing another book or film so that the plot wasn't abstract but was very concreteAt times it's also downright funny but it also raised a lot of uestions I was feeling great about my writing process until the last chapter when I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much preparation she puts into writing novels before she starts ; I realise my techniue is somewhat unconventional however And who knows? Maybe I'll try this way nextMy copy was borrowed but I'm going to have to get a copy for myself so that I can scribble all over it highlight it cover it in post it notes she said so many great things that that's really the only way I can think of going about it I'll definitely be revisiting sections of it whenever I'm stuck

  8. says:

    I firmly believe that certain writing craft books are needed at certain times in your career Thanks to Cally Taylor's recommendation I fell upon this book at the right time for me It works it's way through literary criticism plot characterisation sentence structure and beginning a novel At each section she gives concrete examples on why things work which I found extremely helpful especially on plot and characterisation It wouldn't be a book I would recommend to a real beginner but it is ideal once you have a novel or two under your belt

  9. says:

    I dare not review this bookBut I like itHonestThere's humourThere is expressed experienceThere's a fear that if say anything it will come back to haunt me in some strange wayNo Please don't hurt me

  10. says:

    Also published on my blogI’ve actually had this for a couple of years as I read that a writer I like I forget whom used it and recommended it And honestly how can you not love that title? For me it will always be associated with that scene in HHG where Ford and Arthur have just been picked up by The Heart of Gold and Arthur is accosted by an infinite number of monkeys who want to talk to him about their Hamlet scriptWhich brings me to a point about referencing things – which this book does A LOT On the one hand it is very useful to see concrete examples and analysis of everything from classic literature to reality shows in order to gain a good understanding of how plot works and how basically everything fits into a relatively narrow subset of narratives and styles On the other hand if you don’t know the thing she is talking about it loses its impact a little IMO For instance I have not read Great Expectations or if I have it’s so long ago that I don’t remember anything from it and it is used throughout the whole book a lot as an example Sure she does go into some detail about the scenes she’s using to illustrate something but it resonates a lot if you’re familiar with the work This is not really a criticism just of a heads up that what you get out of those sections is also somewhat dependent on what you have readseenThe book is divided into two sections the first one of which is theory Having studied literature in university the theory section was of course familiar but it’s been uite a few years since I graduated and it was nice to get a recap And if you have not done any literature studies this bit will definitely help you get an understanding of the basicsThe second section is about practice From how to have ideas which sounds a bit weird because why would you want to write if you don’t have ideas – but it’s useful to structure ideas you already have also to how to write a good sentence to how to actually start writing a novel There’s a lot of this I wasn’t able to apply to my first draft which is aaaalmost finished as I read the largest part of this book in the few days leading up to NaNoWriMo and then just wrote like a madwoman for all of November I will say that it’s still useful advice further on in the process and also with an eye on revision And I have no doubt I will return to this book in the futureI do not agree with everything Scarlett Thomas says like referring to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as a comedy – I honestly feel that this is trying too hard to fit everything into the categories you have decided on but I definitely found a lot of the book useful And of course you can pick and chose what you want to adhere toIt’s nice to get concrete advice on everything from plot to sentence structure to how many words your novel should have from someone who has actually published novels It’s full of useful information without getting heavy and I like Thomas’s style I am curious to read one of her novels now

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