Friday, May 21, 2010

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes on William Cane's "Write Like the Masters"


Dostoevsky’s writing style:
• Penetrates the minds of his characters in the midst of turmoil and strong feelings
• Swift and innovative transitions
• Likeable voice – self-deprecating
• Memorable characters

- Immerses readers in a vividly imagined world in which Humiliation and Shame are sole proprietors, a world in which characters become disorganized because of their overwhelming emotions.

- Dostoevsky shifts from mind to mind in a carefully calculated manner.

• First, penetrate the mind of one of the characters in the midst of turmoil and strong feelings.

• Then switch focus to the next character when she is at the height of her passion, when she is beside herself with emotion, rather than when she is thinking ordinary placid thoughts. Dostoevsky alternates between her thoughts and feelings and her actions to keep readers interested.

Example from "Crime and Punishment": Raskolnikov has just confessed to his girlfriend that he is the one who killed Lizaveta. "As soon as he said it...he...remembered clearly Lizaveta's expression as he approached her with the ax and she backed away from him toward the wall with her arm raised in front of her and a completely childlike fear in her face." ... "Sonia looked at him quickly. After the first passionate and agonized feeling of sympathy for the unfortunate man, the terrifying idea of the murder once again stunned her. In the altered tone of his words she suddenly heard the murderer. She looked at him with astonishment. She did not know why or how or for what it had been done." (p. 38-39)

- When employing a first person narrator, Dostoevsky often has them admit their sicknesses, frailties and weaknesses to give readers the chance to put together all the pieces and find a method in the character’s madness.

- His voice is more like regular speech than edited prose.

- His characters make stunning (and usually poor) decisions. Exaggeration is key: Once you think of an action, stop and ponder whether you can up the ante by making it even more bizarre.

- The descriptive passages are loaded with emotional overtones and connotations. Dostoevsky describes Dmitry's physical appearance in "Notes From Underground" in a manner that hints there are layers that need peeling: “He was muscular, and by all appearances, physically very strong; nevertheless, there was something sickly about his face. For all the resolute intensity of his protruding, rather large dark eyes, there was a certain indecision in them.” (p. 44)

-When you write a violent scene, repeat it in the mind of your characters for the added effect.

No comments:

Post a Comment