Thursday, 11 December 2014

WRITERS ON WRITING #58: Bret Easton Ellis

Well, I start with a rough outline, an experimental, very free-form first draft that’s based on everything I want to include in the novel but that I also know won’t make it into the final draft.  And in that first draft there are exercises, samples of how I imagine the narrator might speak if describing something.  I ask questions like, 'Can I use metaphors with this narrator? Will he be able to see something as something else?  No, Patrick Bateman won’t be able to do that.  Everything is all surface for him.'  There’s a scene early in Imperial Bedrooms where Clay takes an actress out to lunch.  The actress has auditioned for the movie Clay has written...They have lunch at this restaurant that I like to go to on Melrose.  There’s a really beautiful silver wall in this restaurant, and depending on what time of day you’re eating there, the sunlight falls on it and creates these patterns and shapes.  In my draft, Clay talked about the silver wall before turning his attention to the actress at hand.  I loved the language I used.  I loved how cool the description of the wall was, the subtle way the light kept changing it.  They were my favorite five lines in the book.  But I knew, after I wrote it, that it couldn’t go in the book.  It wasn’t Clay.  Clay was never going to notice the silver wall, and Clay was never going to talk about the silver wall.  The purpose of the scene is for him to concentrate on the actress, which is what he wants to do, and this silver wall is just the writer jerking off.

The Art of Fiction #216  [The Paris Review #200, Spring 2012]

Click HERE to read the full BRET EASTON ELLIS interview by JON-JON GOULIAN posted in the online archive of The Paris Review.  You can also click HERE to visit the official website of BRET EASTON ELLIS.

You might also enjoy:
WRITERS ON WRITING #55: Julian Barnes
WRITERS ON WRITING #33: Tama Janowitz 


  1. I would have put the lines about the wall in- surely the character has something to do with the writer.

  2. That's the great question, isn't it? Is a character solely the "creation" of the writer or do they take on a separate autonomous existence of their own? An editor may have removed the "wall" information (unnecessary? self indulgent?) during the final edit anyway. Still, to include or not include is always the writer's decision & always presents a dilemma.

    Thanks for the comment, RT. Much appreciated as always.