“The Universe of Story: Neil Gaiman” #awf21 [F]

This morning I attended the Auckland Writers Festival to spend an hour listening to author Neil Gaiman.

He had some great personal stories to tell and told them concisely. I felt the hour to be rather sparse of insight for any practicing writer however, but I put that to the streamlined conversation being steered by the interviewer and by Neil’s enamoured fans at the closing of the hour. Perhaps I was not so naive to all the advice he had to impart that I just found myself agreeing and not so much absorbing. Was great to hear his stories about his stories, where they had appeared and where they had taken him.

After an unsuccessful Hollywood experience trying to adapt Sandman into a feature film franchise in the 1990s, Neil asked Lisa Henson (then studio head of Warner Bros. Pictures) what it takes to make it in Hollywood and she told him, ‘find a circle of friends you trust and can work with.’ Advice that Neil told the room was to him, the equivalent of a thorn being pulled from the lion’s paw. Please keep in mind that I am paraphrasing, but even if I do not do Neil Gaiman’s words justice, his meaning is understandable enough, no? Working relations are important.

Neil Gaiman gave an analogy of how he thought writing was like ladling soup from a worldly pot of stew. Neil is comfortable with sourcing ideas, or rather, inspiration to fuel imagination from other stories, believing that this is how it is done, and he wanted the audience to understand and believe as he does that it is okay and not to shy away from that. I thought that was a bold approach to creative writing and not one I think is all that important, but I supposed he meant, prolonging the longevity of a good idea in your own words and in your own story is what storytelling (or being commercially successful, because he was very concise) is about. Early in his career it was stew for him, but occasionally Neil would get a potato or a chunk of meat to enjoy, to then toss back into the pot, enriching the stew. A silly analogy I think, but a thought provoking one to be sure.

This is not from one of Neil Gaiman’s books, but page 157 from Chuck Palahniuk’s Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different (2020).

It was funny to read that paragraph again today, because the first Neil Gaiman story I ever read and owned happened to be a withdrawn book from the local library (thanks dad). Not pirated per se, but free nonetheless.

And what a generous stew it is.

~ by Fionnlagh on May 16, 2021.

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