“Like everyone else, I began life in anonymity, as a child.” It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. It was the opening line of a talk by Gregory Maguire, given last Tuesday at The Williston Northampton School. After reading from Wicked, Maguire traced the development of his creative passions from fourth grade on using a very entertaining slide show of illustrated stories he wrote as a child. His message to aspiring writers of fiction was, in a nutshell, boredom is the kiss of death. If you are bored with what you’re writing, then your readers will most certainly be bored as well. Inject the unexpected and the quirky as much as possible. Make your spies into a couple of balding old ladies, and have plenty of avalanches and bomb scares to keep people hooked.
Maguire revealed that his process of storytelling was aided greatly by illustrating his own stories. Before theories of right brain vs. left brain were popular, he used drawing as a way to develop plot. “I would draw the picture first,” he said, “and then ask the what, where, how, why? Why is the princess still clutching her handbag as she falls from the tower? What is in the handbag?”
In a more serious tone, Maguire made a great point about the thinking behind his empathetic treatment of the Wicked Witch of the West. It is tied in to a larger vision. Similar to Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, Maguire is examining the story of Dorothy Gale from multiple perspectives. “We don’t have enough knowledge if we only have one point of view,” he said. His next book, A Lion among Men, is told from the perspective of the Cowardly Lion.
This was the first in Williston’s fall 2008 Writers’ Workshop Series, which includes public readings and lectures by prominent writers followed by a Master Class for students.