Summary of Salman Rushdie’s Masterclass on Storytelling and Writing

Masterclass Notes
4 min readOct 28, 2021

19 key takeaways from the 3-times winner of the Booker Prize

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  1. Anybody can write about anything. Because if that’s not true, then it means nobody can write about anything. There’s no need to limit yourself to writing only what you know.
  2. Deeply and ruthlessly examine your life. In order to write something truly special yet truly universal, you need to have deeply understood yourself as well as human nature. Every writer is unique, yet every writer is still human, like us all. Hence, to be able to write something that many people can resonate with yet is true to your personal style and message, you must have examined and understood yourself and others profoundly.
  3. Notice the corners. If you look at a painting, your attention automatically goes to the central figure of it, but in the corner, there may be other things going on that’s not as eye-catching, but still very revealing. Same thing with people, notice the “corner” things that may reveal a great deal about them and sometimes even more than what they’re trying to get your attention with. Train yourself to notice the corners.
  4. It’s not about happiness. If people are happy, there is no story. Stories are about the unhappiness caused by faults in human nature, and ironically, when we recognize our own faults in others’ stories, it makes us happy, because in pain and in story, we unite.
  5. Can love, through the power of art, overcome death? This is the essential arc in all the great myths. It is a condensed story of all the vices and virtues of humanity. It’s the one question that writers have spent centuries answering in different ways.
  6. The opening sentence is unusually important. It needs to say “hello, I am this kind of story, read me.” The opening sentence, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” immediately accomplishes this. Think long and hard about your opening line.
  7. Learn from strategies used by oral storytellers. They don’t just tell one story from beginning to end, they tell multiple stories at once and go back and forth between them. This extra complexity actually makes this form of storytelling more entertaining and engaging. Make sure each instance of each story feels like a story on its…

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