How to write a novel

In Haruki Murakami‘s Sputnik Sweetheart, I came across a very interesting passage, where one character ‘K’, explains his opinion on writing a novel metaphorically to his friend Sumire. The author uses the metaphor only to describe the process of writing a novel. But I feel this metaphor could be very well applied to any creative pursuit.

"Sputnik Sweetheart" was published in Japanese in 1999, and in English in 2001.

"Sputnik Sweetheart" was published in Japanese in 1999, and in English in 2001.

Here, I am producing the same passage as it is. . . (All rights reserved by Haruki Murakami and Random House)


After a while I started to speak, “A long time ago in China there were cities with high walls around them, with huge, magnificent gates. The gates weren’t just doors for letting people in or out, they had greater significance. People believed the city’s soul resided in the gates. Or at least that it should reside there. It’s like in Europe in the Middle Ages when people felt a city’s heart lay in its cathedral and central square. Which is why even today in China there are lots of wonderful gates still standing. Do you know how the Chinese built these gates?”

“I have no idea,” Sumire answered.

“People would take carts out to old battlefields and gather about. China’s a pretty ancient country – lots of old battlegrounds – so they never had to search far. At the entrance to the city they’d construct a huge gate and seal the bones up inside. They hoped that by commemorating the dead soldiers in this way they would continue to guard their town. There’s more. When the gate was finished they’d bring several dogs over to it, slit their throats, and sprinke their blood on the gate. Only by mixing fresh blood with the dried-out bones would the ancient souls of the dead magically revive. At least that was the idea.”

Sumire waited in silence for me to go on.

Writing novels is much the same. You gather up bones and make your gate, but no matter how wonderful the gate might be, that alone doesn’t make it a living, breathing novel. A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.”


Isn’t it interesting? What do you say?


One thought on “How to write a novel

  1. Once i heard that “…advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it´s worth”.
    We may say that a good writer is that one able to tell a story in an interesting, attractive way… a work similar to the advisor: transforming, modeling, re-painting things we all have seen or lived. Weaving all these ingredients magically, like you mentioned.
    But where to find this enchanted element?
    The act of breath, walk, talk, think, love, hate are so natural to us that we dont notice the biggest source of magic. Is there something more extraordinary and fantastic and misterious than life?

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