Marina’s Notes from Naseem Rakha’s Presentation on Write What People Remember

Background and History of Naseem Rakha:

  • Geologist to writer
  • Learned about Strip mine foreclosures
  • In 1983 (Christmas eve) one family got a foreclosure notice and the father shot himself
  • Losing their farm meant losing their livelihood, it created catastrophe
  • Started work for NPR
  • -Wanted to tell a story that made people think-
  • Became an official reporter for white house
  • Had to cover an execution: her goal was to get people to think, feel and consider the ramification of procedures

How to write what people remember

  • Look for fiction details… things that stick with people
  • Ex1. Child’s voice talking about school’s lunch program
  • Ex2. When waiting for the execution, announcements would come:
  • Douglas Right is showering… he is eating his last meal….
  • I saw protesters with signs that said “So long, Douglass Right”
  • I kept thinking “What is the Super Attendant thinking? What does he do when he goes home?”
  • Does he drink a strong cup of vodka? Does he go home and take a long hot shower? What does he dream of? How does he feel when he wakes up?

Ask provocative moral questions

  • Why, who, how
  • Ex. What if you were on Death Row and then found innocent. How would you feel before, during, and after the trial?

Ask people about your subject

  • Talked with a lady who had to deal with the murder of her daughter
  • How do we go on: when faced with tragedy, what we don’t want to even consider

Fiction versus Nonfiction

  • Either way you give voice an important story
  • With fiction you have the power to create own world
  • You can delve into characters because you created them
  • You know the ugly things they hide, and the beautiful parts that no one sees

Make sure your characters are clear

  • Two protagonists: The executioner and the mother
  • The mother comes to forgive murderer

Conflict presented early in novel:

  • An exercise to do!
  • Take 45 minutes to write the first chapter, last chapter, the turning point and the darkest moment of the novel.
  • You may not use the chapters but it’s great to get the words flowing
  • With the darkest moment and the turning point: delve into the conflict and see what emerges: let your characters teach you
  • When you write, your mind can literally get into a dream state.
  • In this state you can access all these memories that you can’t in your regular conscious state.
  • Ex. somewhere in her brain, Naseem knew about Malabar nuts but she didn’t recognize them in her conscious state, but looked them up later and was surprised to find they were real!
  • Writing is like yoga for your brain! Write anything for 10 min

Rules for writing

  • You must get out of rigid state of writing where you must get from point A to point B to get into the dream state.
  • It is better and more comfortable to write about things you know.

Write with your creative brain first (with prompt): then let analytic brain take over and outline what you wrote. You can switch this process around until you find what works for you.

Naseem’s Outline “Interview your novel”

  • Events
  • Characters
  • The mom
  • Premise/Agenda
  • Calm satisfaction to hysteria
  • Agenda:: avenge son
  • Sub-scenes
  • Introduce murder
  • What is reader’s emotion you are trying to create?
  • Trepidation
  • Sadness
  • Tense
  • suspense

(Outline is to tell: Foreshadowing, answering questions, make sure you are not redundant, not too many jumps, words fit together, identify the moments that build tension, that move forward, and that are reflective)

For Naseem, the outline came after first draft of the novel: by examining it

This made chapters: more tension, more relationship with character, streamline novel, why am I taking the character here? Does it fit? Is there purpose toward story line.

Have all that you need and not too much… one scene might give you what you need to show that a character is compassionate or to show other traits of a character.

People grow by understanding people through other’s lives.

  • Empathy, blame, love, anger

Writing a novel changes you:

  • You pay more attention to details about people
  • You are constantly asking your characters questions

When thinking of writing a Novel: looking through a keyhole into a room, you don’t know much about the room, you have to write in order to get through the door

Sense of reality: resignation that nothing can be done

  • What makes novels work
  • Clearly defined conflict
  • Powerful and enduring characters with satisfying and congruous arcs
  • Escalating tension that leads to an unpredictable, yet fully believable and fully realized end
  • Provocative narration
  • Description and dialogue that support premise, build tension and fill in characters
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One response to “Marina’s Notes from Naseem Rakha’s Presentation on Write What People Remember

  1. Thanks so much, these are really helpful notes!