Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Maeve Binchy: Quintessential Irish Story Teller

Though she passed away in 2012, Maeve Binchy's story telling abilities continue to astound me. When I read her stories, I get lost in the lives of the characters. They jump right out of the pages. I don't have to work hard to understand their actions, motives, likes, dislikes, and problems.   The narrative is simple, yet profound. So how did Binchy do this?

My research turned up articles about Binchy's personal life, her books, and her fans, but very little serious critiquing has been done on her actual writing style.  No one, it seems, has analyzed how these deceptively simple stories are able to reveal such profound human truths.

I found some answers from Binchy herself when she shared her writing process on an on-line video. She explained with the audience that her characters just do ordinary things where they make mistakes, and we can see them making the mistakes, but in the end, they take control of their lives. They don't end up indulging in pity parties.  Binchy also shared three secrets:

1. Write like you are talking to a friend.
2. Listen to how real people converse.
3. Write a minimum of five pages, twice a week, every week of the year.

Perhaps a 100 years from now,  Binchy's stories will be read, loved, book clubbed, fan clubbed, and smothered with affection the way Jane Austin's books are treated now.  To my surprise,  I learned that in Austin's time, her readers credited her with writing fashionable stories, rather than great stories. It wasn't until the 1940's that her books began to receive literary merit from English professors and others. Binchy's stories have yet to be viewed as literary masterpieces, but I say, give them time.

I would love to have a cup of Irish tea with Ms. Binchy to see what else she might tell me about her writing methods, but I have a suspicion that she would just point to the three secrets and say something like, "There it is, now get on with it!"

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