What Writers Can Learn From This Year’s Nobel Winner: Kazuo Ishiguro

On Thursday, a Japanese born British author received a call in his London home. It was his agent informing him that the Nobel committee had awarded him the Nobel Prize in literature. Stunned, the 62-year-old novelist immediately felt it was a hoax – a fake news. It was only after the BBC called him and a horde of journalists and photographers were lined outside his house that he believed he had been given a prestigious honor. He was now a Nobel Prize winner.

That writer was Kazuo Ishiguro.

Ishiguro has had a writing career spanning more than 30 years. His most famous works include The Remains of the Day (which was made into an Oscar movie starring Anthony Hopkins), Never Let Me Go, When We Were Orphans and The Unconsoled.

So what can budding storytellers learn from Ishiguro? Like many literary giants, he has his own distinctive style. Below are 5 writers’ tips we learned from him:

Don’t State the Obvious. Let Them Read Between the Lines.

Stating the obvious can be a bit of a dampener for readers who love to interpret situations, events, and characters in their own way. It not only makes reading a fun process but it also engages the audience and forces them to draw their own conclusions. Often in Ishiguro’s books, the narrator is unreliable and a lot of things remain unsaid.

Ishiguro’s novels are drenched with hidden meanings that aren’t explicitly stated and sit just beneath the surface. In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, the Nobel laureate attributes developing this inimitable skill to being a failed singer and songwriter.

When You’re Bitten by the Writing Bug, Write.

Poets, authors, short story writers, and even bloggers are usually bitten by the writing bug – that sudden realization of an idea that has been simmering in your head. Writers usually write in a fit often rushing to put pen to paper in order to breathe life into fictional characters, create fantastical events and make unexpected connections.

If you’ve been bitten by this bug you need to stop everything and just write. Nonstop.

Ishiguro wrote his most acclaimed novel to date, The Remains of the Day, in an astonishingly short amount of time: Four weeks. It not only won him a Booker Prize but got made into a movie. This is perhaps an essential tips for writers in 2018.

Don’t Stick to One Genre

Although the British writer normally sticks to historical fiction in terms of genre, he isn’t afraid to mix it up with a little crime and mystery or science fiction. In fact, most of his popular novels are mixed genres combining historical fiction with other genres.

For example, Never Let Me Go is set in the 1990s but is a science fiction novel. When We Were Orphans is considered more of a detective novel than a historical fiction book.

As a writer who will one day conjure an intriguing book, you need to dabble in different genres. Most readers love it when a romantic story is combined with a murder mystery or a science fiction plot has elements of magic realism. There’s no need to be a master of one. It’s always better to be a Jack of all trades. It’s one of the best writers tips.

Be a Prolific Writer

Do you want to be known as a storyteller who wrote one great book or someone who created a string of books, short stories, graphic novels, and screenplays? I think we all would choose the latter.

Every celebrated writer slowly builds an oeuvre which consists of several novels, myriad short stories and even a couple of poems. Right from JK Rowling (who never stopped writing after achieving a staggering level of fame after Harry Potter), Neil Gaiman, Stephen King to García Márquez, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ernest Hemingway are regarded as prolific writers because they never stopped creating works of art.

Besides penning numerous novels, the 2017 Nobel Prize Winner writes songs, is currently working on adapting his novels into films, writes scripts for plays and short stories. Whew!

Don’t just wait around for inspiration to strike you. Write that dream novel now. Jot down a short story that’s bubbling in your head. Write. And don’t stop.

Be Humble

Of the several writers tips available one, one that is never mentioned is that no matter how much success you’ve attained in life, always remain humble and full of gratitude.

Ishiguro was shocked that prominent wordsmiths like Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, and Margaret Atwood didn’t receive the Nobel Prize. He told The Guardian, “Part of me feels like an imposter and part of me feels bad that I’ve got this before other living writers,” he added, “Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, all of them immediately came into my head and I just thought wow, this is a bit of a cheek for me to have been given this before them.”

Even after receiving recognition and an illustrious award, the Nagasaki-born writer remains humble, down-to-Earth and true to his Japanese roots.

So don’t be afraid to add rich meanings in your novels or blogs, dabble in different genres, write a lot and hammer on the keyboard when a story consumes you. Through all this, always stay humble. In Ishiguro’s own words, “As a writer, I’m more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.”

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