Fahrenheit 451: characters tell the story.

A few days ago, I was pressing to complete a re-write of Search for the Host, the third in the Host series. I was actually doing pretty well. I was down to only 19 areas for corrections in the book which I had noted over two re-reads and re-writes. I felt so good at being that far along that I took a break. For some reason, I started thinking about Ray Bradbury and his writing of Fahrenheit 451. I knew a little about it but wanted a refresh so I looked for and found an intervfarenheight-451-coveriew with Bradbury done under the NEA Big Read project (watch the whole thing here). Specifically, I wanted to review where and how he wrote the book. I was rewarded with a confirmation that my memory was still intact. Bradbury wrote the first version (then called The Fireman) in the basement of the UCLA library where he could rent a typewriter for ten cents a half hour. He started working almost immediately and went up and down the library stairs to get book quotes for Montag to read in the book. He worked feverishly, and in nine days he was done. 25,000 words in nine days! That version was published in Galaxy magazine. Then Ballantine Books came to Bradbury and said they would publish it in a book form, but it had to be at least 50,000 words. So back to the UCLA library basement he went.
Getting to the 50,000 word part was interesting. What he did was have a chat with each of his characters. “. . . I got characters to come to me. Montag said, ‘ Do you know me completely?’ And I said no, and he told me. Then the fire chief came to me and told me about his prior life. I asked him, ‘Why did you burn books?’ And he told me. . .” As he said, “All my characters write the book.”
I don’t think I’ll write 25,000 words in nine days anytime soon. However, what he said about characters writing the story hits home. After my disaster with the first draft of Future Discovered, I wrote out character descriptions of each major player. Once I did that, it was just as Bradbury said, they wrote the story pretty much on their own.
If you like books and you like or think you might like writing, set some time aside and listen to Ray Bradbury. His discussion of  Fahrenheit 451 starts at about 11:50.
Let me know when you watch the video and tell me what you thought afterwards.

One Comment:

  1. Very interesting story of how Ferinheight 451 came to be. His passion and excitement are inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

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