In this Margaret Atwood Masterclass review, I’ll go through important lessons you’ll learn, what to expect, and who’ll benefit from this writing class.
As a nonfiction writer, I’ve always wanted to get into fictional writing. Ever since we’re young, we’ve been hearing stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. These stories are classics we’ll never forget but what if we could create our own?
As a fiction writer, you get to create characters, events, and storylines. If you’re good enough, your work will leave a permanent mark on countless people around the world.
Who’s better at teaching you how to create stories than Margaret Atwood. She has written Amazon bestselling like The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin.
Who Is Margaret Atwood And Why Should You Listen To Her?
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author, novelist, and poet. She first came onto the writing scene in 1969 with her novel The Edible Woman. Ever since, she’s been writing masterpiece after masterpiece and received awards like the Booker Prize, Giller Prize, and Helmerich Award.
She has been publishing bestselling novels for the last 51 years. So if you’re an aspiring fiction writer, then her advice is worth considering.
Who Is Her Creative Writing Masterclass For?
The Margaret Atwood Masterclass is for any fiction writer of any experience level. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced writer, you’ll learn a lot about hooking readers, creating characters, and designing an effective creative process.
Her writing class consists of 21 videos and almost 4 hours' worth of content. You also get access to a PDF workbook that talks about everything you learn in her videos. This makes it a great option if you’re commuting and prefer to read than watch videos.
Although her Masterclass is targeted towards fiction writers, even nonfiction writers can benefit from her knowledge. She speaks about overcoming roadblocks as a writer, hooking your readers, engaging with your audience, and structuring your content.
These are all challenging areas where most nonfiction writers struggle with. But by watching her Masterclass, you get access to the lessons she learned and how to overcome these problems.
6 Important Writing Tips That I Learnt
Her Masterclass is filled with juicy nuggets of information that she has acquired over her lifetime. She overcame almost every problem you’ve faced as a writer and can help you achieve your goals.
As a fiction writer, the knowledge you gain through watching her videos or reading her PDF document will stay with you forever.
1. Developing An Engaging Plot
She starts by saying that stories are merely patterns that are interrupted. Would you watch a movie where a family simply lives their perfect life without any obstacles in their way? Never!
There needs to be a break in the pattern and that’s when the story starts. In this Masterclass, she shows us how to do just that.
According to Atwood, the most important part of a plot is the threats that your characters need to overcome. Without these threats, there’s no reason for your readers to continue reading.
Atwood says, “A good plot has to have something happening in it that is of interest to the reader.”
When brainstorming obstacles for your characters to overcome, keep in mind that there are threats from outside and within.
For example, if your characters are going about their normal lives and there’s an invasion, then that’ll be an external threat.
But if your characters are married and one of them decides to cheat, then that’ll be an internal threat.
The best stories combine both external and internal threats. This could be something like a married couple cheats on each other but an external threat like an invasion comes along. They are then forced to set aside their ego and look out for one another.
This is what makes an engaging story.
2. Structure Your Story Properly
Another important lesson I learned from her Masterclass is that an engaging plot is only one part of the puzzle. How you tell your story is equally as important.
There are several ways you can tell your story. You could use an all-knowing narrator to introduce new ideas and events into the story or you can tell the story from the perspective of a character.
She uses the example of Little Red Riding Hood. You could tell the story from the perspective of Red Riding Hood, the mother, grandmother, or wolf. After writing for a while, you’ll get an idea of how to tell your story so it’s engaging for your viewers.
3. Create Compelling Characters
I learned that a story is only as good as the characters in them.
When writing an engaging story, Atwood advises that we shouldn’t create characters that are totally bad or good. There’s no such thing. Instead, visualize your characters on a spectrum from good to bad. They should be somewhere in between.
Also, look at when your story takes place. If you’re writing about people in the 1600’s, then they’ll behave differently than people in 2021. This is where research is important since you must create an accurate representation of your characters.
Another important part of creating characters is having an unpredictable villain. In her Masterclass, she makes an example of Hannibal and how unpredictable he is. This keeps the audience on the edge of their seats since they don’t know what he’s going to do next.
In one of her classes, Atwood says, “Which comes first, character or story? There is no such thing as first, because a person is what happens to them.”
Last, a helpful tip that she uses to gain insight into her characters is to draw a graph. On the virtual axis, write the months and on the horizontal axis, write the years. Then draw a line from both axes for the month and year that they’re born.
This way you never get confused about how they relate to each other and you’ll see how old they were when major world events occurred. Another example that she uses is if your character was 12 years old when 911 happened, it’ll have a big impact on their lives. If they were 2 years old, then not so much.
4. Create Enough Clues For Your Readers
In this Masterclass, she tells us that she specifically made the landlord thin when she wrote Alias Grace. But after her editors got back to her, they thought she was plump. So she had to add it in a few more times to ensure that her readers wouldn't miss it.
People leap to their own conclusions if you don’t give them enough clues.
Another way she loves giving clues is through food and drink. You get authors who never feed their characters, while others feed them a lot.
For example, in the book Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, the characters rarely eat and they smoke and drink alcohol all day. This gives the reader a visual representation of what they look like.
She also explains that Charles Dickens is famous for feeding his characters in all his books. He uses food to give the reader clues on what type of person they are and their interests.
As a writer, you don’t have to stick to food to represent your characters. Clothes, jewelry, and physique work just as well.
5. Write Your Way Through Roadblocks
One of the biggest problems I faced at the beginning of my writing career is writer's block. The best way to beat writer's block according to Atwood is to practice and fail and practice until you fail.
It’s better to do it than to complain about how you can’t. Even if your writing is terrible, it’s better than not doing anything.
Let’s say you’ve started writing but you ran into a problem that seems impossible to solve. Well, she recommends going for a walk. It calms your head and the outdoors is a great way to find a new angle to solve a problem.
Another recommendation that she swears by is to tell yourself the problem and fall asleep. Once you’ve woken up, you’ll have an easier time solving that problem.
Her last solution is to do any activity that requires repetitive motion like ironing. This declutters your brain and forces your subconscious to deal with the problem head-on.
6. Margaret Atwood’s Creative Process
A big part of her creative process is research. Making sure that everything in her books is accurate, even though it says fiction on the cover.
If you’re writing a book on characters living in the 1600s, you’ll need to find out what they wore, how they behaved, what they ate, and how they lived. Even though your book is fictional, it should be accurate.
Accuracy is important because it’ll throw your readers off if your book is inaccurate. If you’re reading a book that took place in the 1600s, you’d be confused when you find out that one of the characters was watching television.
This translates well into nonfiction. It’s important to convey an accurate and well-research message to your audience or it’ll ruin your credibility.
What Is Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass Like?
Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass consists of 21 video lessons that are 3 hours and 43 minutes long. All are filmed in HD which gives it a more personalized feeling. These videos include;
- Introduction: 04:28
- Getting Started as a Writer: 11:14
- Story and Plot: 09:44
- Structuring Your Novel: 12:44
- Who Tells The Story? 09:18
- Point of View Case Studies: 07:32
- Bringing Characters to Life: 11:44
- Creating Compelling Characters: 08:44
- Writing Through Roadblocks: 09:37
- Crafting Dialogue: 08:26
- Revealing the World Through Sensory Imagery: 09:06
- Prose Style and Texture: 10:43
- Working with Time in Fiction: 09:09
- The Door to Your Book: 08:42
- Writing the Middle and Ending: 10:03
- Revision: Seeing Your Work Anew: 08:02
- The Novel and Shifting Sands of Genre: 05:26
- Speculative Fiction: 12:33
- Speculative Fiction Case Study: The Handmaid’s Tale: 14:34
- Research and Historical Accuracy 15:18
- The Writer’s Path: 15:50
Her Masterclass also comes with a 92-page PDF workbook that summaries each lesson. So if you feel like reading, then this is perfect for you.
How Much Does It Cost?
To get access to this course, or any course on the Masterclass platform, you’ll need to buy an annual all-access pass of $180. This is great since you get unlimited access and don’t have to buy each class separately.
If you’re a beginner writer and you aren’t willing to invest $180, then you shouldn’t. You can learn a lot by simply reading blog posts and watching online videos. But if you’ve been writing for a while and feel like your skills are stagnating, then this platform will take your writing skills to the next level.
Is Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass Worth It?
Margaret Atwood and James Patterson are my two favorite instructors on the Masterclass platform.
If you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood or you’re an aspiring writer who’s looking to write an Amazon bestseller, then her class is a must-watch. It teaches you everything you need to know about creating characters, engaging plots, and novel writing.
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Margaret Atwood Teaches You About Creative Writing
The Bottom Line
Masterclass courses are a great way to up your writing skills. If you’re looking to get into fictional writing or improve your writing skills, then taking Margaret Atwood’s class on fictional writing will get the job done. It shows you everything you need to know about creating engaging stories for your audience.
- Any writer regardless of skill level can learn a lot from her
- She explains everything deeply and it’s easy to understand
- Everything you’ll need to know on how to create a plot and engaging characters can be found in this class.
- Although you can learn a lot from this course as a nonfiction writer, it’s mainly about creating a fictional story
- It’s only available as part of Masterclass' all-access pass
- It doesn’t cover the art of storytelling.