Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An Interview with Shakespeare



By David E. Sharp

[Today it is my esteemed privilege to interview one of the greatest writers of all time. His works are mandatory reading in most English classes. He's been called the inventor of the human. Please welcome William Shakespeare.]

DS
William, it's so good to have you here to offer your writing advice to us.

WS
As good luck would have it.

DS
Good luck, indeed! I admit, I wasn't sure we'd be able to get you. Seeing as how you've been dead these last few centuries.

WS
I have not slept one wink.

DS
So, you've been gone 400 years. The world has technology you never could have predicted. Special effects. Hollywood. Yet somehow your writings have remained relevant. And not only relevant, but foundational to our modern storytelling culture.

WS
The wheel is come full circle: I am here. I bear a charmed life.

DS
Absolutely. How is it, then, your works have stood so well against the test of time?

WS
Time is the nurse and breeder of all good. Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. Time's glory is to command contending kings, to unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.

DS
So, time is kind of like a cosmic sifter that separates the really great stuff from all the… other stuff. Did you suspect at the time of the writing, that your themes would be so universal they would still resonate four centuries after your death?

WS
If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.

DS
Fair enough. William, there are a lot of writers out there who would love to learn some of the secrets of your storytelling technique. What advice would you share with your fellow writers?

WS
Brevity is the soul of wit. An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told. This is the short and long of it.

DS
Writers are often told to trim their manuscripts. You are an advocate of keeping tight word counts, then.

WS
Men of few words are the best men. Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest.

DS
I take it you're a proponent of rapid pacing, then.

WS
Action is eloquence. Delays have dangerous ends.

DS
At the same time, you are a master of poetic form. How do you balance that?

WS
As imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.

DS
Anchoring abstract concepts to relatable images. You're referring to metaphor?

WS
Such tricks hath strong imagination.

DS
Excellent. And I think we'd all agree that strong metaphors add dynamic imagery to our writing, a technique with which you are quite familiar. And you were able to use this device to make complex ideas accessible to diverse audiences from uneducated peasants to nobles, and even the queen! And they're still accessible to us today.

WS
I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.

DS
Let's talk about character. You've been called the inventor of the human.

WS
Not stepping o'er the bounds of modesty.

DS
I admire your humility, but your writings launched an era of characters with layers and dimension. The Greek tragedies were so flat and unrelatable. You invented characters with whom we could identify. Even your minor characters were rounded.

WS
Into a thousand parts, divide one man.

DS
How are you able to make your characters so human?

WS
The common curse of mankind, -folly and ignorance.

DS
You give your characters flaws and blind spots?

WS
Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our own virtues.

DS
Your characters have a mixed bag of virtue and vice. Then, you present them with a plot seed. A choice of some kind.

WS
Your "if" is your only peacemaker; much virtue in "if."

DS
And, depending on how the characters respond to the choice given to them, they drive the plot for the rest of the play. Even when your characters try to right their wrongs, they experience unforeseen consequences.

WS
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied. Most dangerous is that temptation that doth goad us into sin in loving virtue.

DS
Then you have characters who see themselves as the "good guys" making things worse for themselves and inevitably reaping the consequences for their actions.

WS
Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

DS
And how do you ensure that the characters drive the plot?

WS
Every man has business and desire, such as it is. The will is infinite and the execution confin'd, the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit.

DS
You make your characters want something. Need something, perhaps. Even bordering on obsession, but their ability to acquire what they want is held in check, while their desire is not.

WS
The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope. How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes!

DS
They want something they can't have. And in trying to attain it, they get in their own way.

WS
To wilful men, the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters.

DS
To recap, your advice to writers is to keep the storytelling brief, but to be vivid through the use of sensual metaphors. To create layered characters with mingled strengths and flaws. To provide your characters with enormous desires, but also with plenty of obstacles to overcome. Many of those obstacles are self-imposed. Do you have anything else you'd like to impart?

WS
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

DS
[laughs] Right, but seriously. What's the big takeaway you'd like to leave with us?

WS
This above all; to thine own self be true.

DS
William Shakespeare, thank you so much for joining us today on The Writing Bug. So good to have you back from the grave.

WS
The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

DS
Whaaat? That's not a Shakespeare quote. That's Mark Twain.

WS
What's done cannot be undone.

DS
Thought we wouldn't notice, huh? Well, it's been an honor just the same.

WS
I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.



-For more about advice you can take from The Bard of Avon, check out the following resources. Or share your own Shakespearean insights in the comments below.

Ten Things Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Writing Thrillers

Five Writing Secrets From William Shakespeare the Bard

Shakespeare for Screenwriters




DS
Oh, great! Who let this dog loose in the studio?

WS
Out, damned Spot! Out, I say!

2 comments:

Ronda Simmons said...

I can't believe you were able to snag an interview with ol' Will himself. What was he like?

David Sharp said...

Shorter than I would have thought. Isn't that always the case?

Share a Post