One of the greatest writers of our time, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, died yesterday at the age of 87. While many people are familiar with his great novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, fewer people know that he was an innovative journalist, editor, and magazine publisher.
I first read Marquez when I was earning my MFA in creative writing at the University of Montana. It was for a fiction techniques class called, “Time and Trouble.” Little did I know that I would use many of Marquez’s celebrated fiction techniques in my non-fiction writing, including my marketing copy, for years to come.
Without further ado, here are five Marquez-inspired ideas for content writers:
- Embracing New Journalism. In the late 1950s, a handful of journalists began applying fiction-writing techniques to news stories. For Marquez, the first result was The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor – an in-depth look at a man who survived at sea for ten days after his ship sank (perhaps because the Colombian Navy had so much contraband aboard the vessel). The story exposed government negligence and faulty reporting, but all through a gripping narrative and with the use of traditional fictional storytelling methods. Bottom line: fictional techniques are for non-fiction writers, too – and they grab readers in the exact same way.
- Learning from magical realism. Marquez is certainly most famous for his magical realism: the small, fantastical aspects of his fiction that live comfortably next to real-world settings, real-world characters, and real-world conflicts. But how could magical realism possibly have anything to do with non-fiction writing and marketing writing? Understanding how the juxtaposition between fantasy and reality affects readers can help you use both to inspire emotion and action.
- Never forgetting about plain old realism. Marquez might have been known best for his work with magical realism, but he understood what all great fiction writers know: that great fiction is all borrowed from reality, too. His New York Times obituary shared this telling quote: “I’m a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist. My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.” The lesson? If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, look to your own life. If you want to connect with your readers, look to the universal experience.
- Writing what you know. What do I think about first when I recall Marquez’s work? It’s not the magical realism or the literary techniques. It’s the colorful, flamboyant, intense, and sometimes sorrowful world of Latin America and his home country Colombia. Although he traveled the world and although he used his imagination to the fullest, the true spirit of his work came from what he saw and experienced during his boyhood years in Aracataca.
- Having confidence in your work. When he was writing his seminal work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez sold everything, including his car and furniture. After everything was sold, he went into debt to finish the book. His wife pawned their last items – an electric heater, a blender and a hairdryer – just to mail the manuscript to a publisher. He believed in his book so deeply that he bet everything on it.
Want to read a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez to get inspired for your next writing session? Try this quick read, Eyes of a Blue Dog.