Lessons from: 1Q84


I’ve been procrastinating on this post for a week and a half, 1Q84 is a complex novel and I’ve taken that long just to get my head around what the piece taught me, let alone compose how to present this all in a post.

To start with it may be worth mentioning that Murakami has a unique style (that I myself was unaware of when I read the book) that includes stories which tend to have meandering plotlines and supernatural happenings that don’t necessary resolve or end logically and in a typical 3-act structure of most novels. I mention this because I’m going to talk about lack of resolution as a negative, or rather an example of something you probably want to avoid, as Murakami has a solid fanbase and an eccentric reputation to maintain so can afford atypical plotting.

Secondly clocking in at more than 900 pages the 3 books of 1Q84 are also probably a little monolithic to read for some pointers (which I guess is part of the point of these posts right, right!?!?)

So what sorts of things did Murakami teach me about writing through reading 1Q84?


How to weave together separate storylines:

In 1Q84 there are two main characters. Aomame an, odd, aloof personal trainer who moonlights as a killer of abusive men, and Tengu, an eccentric, oblivious, teacher who hopes to become a novelist.

Now based on that there isn’t much connection between the two characters, other than the fact they held hands one day as school children and never saw each other again. But Murakami finds sneaky and subtle ways of interconnecting their tales which maintains their individual storylines without forcing any connections or constantly having the characters reference their shared history. For example Tengu’s inciting incident (if you will) is he is asked to secretly ghost-write a novel already drafted by a youth, the novel contains a number of supernatural elements, which Aomame starts to experience. Also the young writer is the daughter of the cult-leader who is Aomame’s next target. When Aomame finally catches up to the leader, the daugther also ‘catches up’ to Tengu. While the two MC’s are navigating their own plots the connections are clear to us.


How not to resolve character stories and plot

It’s kind of hard to flesh this out appropriately, suffice to say that 1Q84 is a great example of excellent build-up, at about 50% of the way through the books I was gripping the edge of the chair, unable to put the book down the tension was so high. And while the tension started to trickle lower, the end of Book 2 was sufficiently shocking to demand a fast read of book 3. Unfortunately after some very intense events, including assassination, conspiracy, under-age sex and ever increasing bizarre supernatural events, Tengu simply sits next to his dying father reading him stories, and Aomame sits in a safe house thinking about Tengu, eventually being easily provided his address for them to reunite and without issue escape the supernatural world that is 1Q84.

Now I like pushing fictional boundaries as much as anyone, but I also like traditional work too, and one way or the other 1Q84 provides an example of a non-traditional approach to tension, climax and resolution in plotting and how a typical novel wouldn’t do it.


In terms of these posts, I plan on putting together an ongoing thread of all the things I’ve picked up from the professionals, at the moment it would be a little bare but once I have a few more books reviewed this way I will put it all together in one evergrowing place.



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