What every writer can learn from seeing Kenneth Oppel…

Last night, I ventured out to the Arden Theatre in St. Albert to attend a talk given by writer ┬áKenneth Oppel. I’m a huge fan of his SIlverwing series, which explores the world of bats, and I loved his book “Half Brother”, a novel based on the Project Nim study and language acquisition in chimpanzees. I don’t like all of his books (just personal taste and subject matter), but he’s a writer I respect and admire.

I was an anomaly at the reading last night. The majority of people in attendance were pre-teens or teenagers, teachers or parents. However, one of the librarians pointed out that I was, in fact, surrounded by “my people”, because I was just as excited as the nerdy teens, most of whom were clutching Kenneth Oppel books. It warmed my heart.

Kenneth Oppel is a great presenter. He started by telling the audience about his new book “Such Wicked Intent”, the sequel to “His Dark Endeavour”. The two-book series delves into the life of a teenage Victor Frankenstein. Oppel used a power point presentation of visual images that helped bring the audience into the story, outlined the Frankenstein story and myth to the teenage audience, and then read from his new book.

Then he explained his writing process. This portion was as good as a writing course for me and I found it invaluable. I would love to take a course from him, because I think his process would work for me and I’m going to try it when I eventually start trying to write a novel again. Oppel is a planner (so am I) and spends a long time outlining and drawing up the story on paper. He then keeps on filling in the story until he knows what will happen and is ready to write. Then he writes the scenes of the story. He doesn’t start at Chapter One, but starts writing a scene that he feels comfortable with. If he gets stuck, he goes back and rewrites or jumps ahead. He writes at least four drafts before he sends it to his publishers. (He also talked about how he lets his wife read parts of it, and reads it out loud to his teenage children to see if the story interests them) He also keeps photographs and drawings above his workspace to help him imagine the story and keep him on track.

I was really impressed by his presentation and think that many writers could learn from his presentation style and his delivery. He was funny, personable and informative without being pretentious or stuffy. Thumbs up!


I couldn’t link to his biography properly, so I invite you to check on Oppel’s webpage at- http://www.kennethoppel.ca


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