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Writing lessons via Shakespeare

I thought it was so cool when I heard that my longtime client, A.J. Hartley, was doing a panel at this year’s ThrillerFest on Shakespeare and what lessons we can learn from the old master’s ways. In his day job when he’s not writing smart commercial fiction, he is a world-renowned Shakespeare scholar and Shakespeare professor at UNC Charlotte.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one intrigued because the response to the panel was very enthusiastic. Writer’s Digest recently offered its readers some highlights which I wanted to share here. Much of the advice is practical, real-world and accessible, a strength of A.J.’s in his writing as well as his teaching.

A few examples of the gems you’ll find in A.J.’s advice:

*Good writers borrow…Great writers steal. Most of Shakespeare’s stories originated in other source material

*All scenes must have both internal and external conflict. “It’s not enough for the door to be locked. The character has to have a reason to not want to open it.”

*The dialogue says it all. Hartley pointed out that we tend to think of Shakespeare as a great philosopher, spouting off wisdoms—but that’s not the case. “Every word in Shakespeare is dialogue. It comes from character. … We do not know what Shakespeare thought about anything, and that’s what makes him good.”

It looks like there are a lot of things writers can take away from one of the oldest and greatest out there. And there’s so much more great stuff in this piece. Check it out and book your ticket to next year’s ThrillerFest where I’m guessing A.J. will be presenting another panel on this topic.

Hope you find someone useful that will translate to your own writing. Let us know.

3 Responses to Writing lessons via Shakespeare

  1. PaulaLA says:

    Interesting take on Shakespeare. Definitely made me curious to read some work by A.J. Hartley. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lynn says:

    All 10 lessons are great advice for improving our work, no matter what genre we write in. I’ll repeat what Paula said, thanks for sharing!

  3. Stacey says:

    Thanks for the comments, PaulaLA and Lynn. I really enjoyed AJ’s take on lessons from Shakespeare and also felt there was much to be explored. Next year try to attend the conference to hear more in person. It’s one of those pieces that makes me want to hear the entire presentation. I’m sure there were lots of gems.

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