How to Write Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- In your next incarnation, be born in Colombia, or anywhere that the beliefs of a traditional culture clash with those of western rationalism.
- Work as a journalist. Learn the importance of close observation. Learn how everything has political causes and repercussions. Understand that however extravagantly unique an individual may seem to be, he is as typical of his society as an animal is of its herd.
- Steep yourself in great literature: the Greek tragedians, for their belief in the implacability of fate; the great North Americans, especially Faulkner and Hemingway, for their disciplined, tightly-controlled storytelling; and the modernist masters like Joyce and Woolf, for their streams-of-consciousness and lyricism.
- Forget everything you’ve ever heard about how to write fiction. Tell, don’t show. Write entire chapters in expository prose. Write practically entire books in expository prose, with a rare scene here and there. Become a master of sleight-of-hand, a conjurer: stuff your paragraphs full of sensory images to convince your readers that they’re reading dramatic scenes, even though they aren’t. Do away with paragraphs when you feel like it. (The Autumn of the Patriarch.) Mix absurdist comedy with utter horror and tragedy. Be vulgar. If you feel like it, do away with protagonists. Have multiple plots.
- Write about politics constantly but never, ever preach. Let the reader draw her own lessons.
- Accumulate a vast vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to use it. If the reader doesn’t understand a word, she can use a dictionary.
- Work your arse off. No distractions, no social media or social life while you’re in the throes of creation.
- Abandon your job. Go into debt, get your wife to support you. Just write and to hell with the rest.
- Live somewhere beautiful and inundated with history: Bogota, Cartagena de las Indias, Barcelona, Mexico City. Ideally it should be a city that is corrupt, unjust, absurd, one of those sad spots on the earth where people are forced to laugh constantly or else they would slit their throats.
- Speak a sonorous language with rich, rotund vowels, a formal language, such as Spanish (or Italian or Portuguese). Know that you are the heir not only of Cervantes, but of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero.
- Have grandparents who raise you and tell you tales of the supernatural and the fantastic constantly, mixing elements from different worlds in a bouillabaisse of myth, religious belief, superstition, exaggeration, and fables.
- Grow up in a tiny town in which there is nothing to do but read (and when you’re an adolescent, visit the brothel.) Make it a town owned by an American corporation that exploits people mercilessly and has them massacred if they go on strike. Learn the power and viciousness of capitalism in your flesh.
- Grow a bandit’s moustache.
- Become an intimate friend of Fidel Castro.
- Have a fist-fight with a fellow Nobel Prize winner.
- Above all, tell the truth, however much it hurts. Tell your own people you are leaving your land because it’s a “shit country”. Spare no one and nothing.
- Be ambitious. Retell the history of your continent. Homer did it; why shouldn’t you?
- Mix philosophical musings with lowbrow scatological jokes.
- Avoid sentimentality at all times.
- Believe in the dignity of ordinary people…
- And in the greatest miracle on earth, the love of one human being for another.
Garry Craig Powell
Garry Craig Powell, until 2017 professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas, was educated at the universities of Cambridge, Durham, and Arizona. Living in the Persian Gulf and teaching on the women’s campus of the National University of the United Arab Emirates inspired him to write his story collection, Stoning the Devil (Skylight Press, 2012), which was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2009, McSweeney’s, Nimrod, New Orleans Review, and other literary magazines. Powell lives in northern Portugal and writes full-time. His novel, Our Parent Who Art in Heaven, was published by Flame Books in 2022, and is available from their website, Amazon, and all good bookshops.
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