Amy Tan, Chinese-American writer–best known for her novel The Joy Luck Club, released a collection of letters and personal essays entitled The Opposite of Fate. As Tan is known as a primarily fiction writer, it is remarkable to get this very real and identifying insight into the mind of this author, her life, her real family, and her writing process.
If having a film made off her bestselling first novel is not enough to make Amy Tan a remarkable and important American writer, in addition, as of the beginning of this month (October 2008), an opera based off Tan’s novel, The Bonesetter’s Daughter has just completed its first run.
As a young, high-school aged writer, I myself received a signed copy of The Opposite of Fate as an inspiring present from my mother, and since then, the works of Amy Tan have held particular significance to me. As a student at Arizona State University, studying Creative Writing, as well as an intern at Superstition Review, I have found that Tan’s works have endured to hold valuable advice in my writing and advice. With great joy, keep reading for an excerpt of Tan’s words to writers…
- Avoid clichés. “They are all around us, and they are anathema to original thought,” insists Tan. Many of my fellow students have heard this doubly in classes.
- Avoid generalizations. “Literary writers, unless they are writing fairy tales, learn early to never have characters who are polar opposites, one ‘good,’ the other ‘evil.’ … Literary fiction…is supposed to reflect subtle truths about the world.”
- Find your own voice. “Your voice is one that seeks personal truth, one only you can obtain. That truth comes from your own experiences, your own observations, and when you find it, if it really is true and specific to you, you may be surprised that others find it to be true as well.“
- Show compassion. “Practice imagining yourself living the life of someone whose situation differs entirely from yours–living in a different country, having another religion–and the more deeply you can do so, the more you become that character as you write. You cannot help being compassionate“
- Ask the important questions. “What makes a story worthwhile is the question or questions it poses…You need to ask yourself: What is important? What is at stake? In knowing what questions you are asking, you also know your individual voice, your own morality.“
Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate as well as her other writings are available at Amazon.com as well as many other book retailers.