Haruki Murakami is not a prolific author. He is a great author. His books will still be read 100 years from now. While getting tips from prolific authors is great, we want to learn more than how to write a pile of novels. We want to write interesting stories worth reading again and again. Murakami writes those kind of stories.
Haruki Murakami is one of those authors whose writing was a hit from the very first novel. He didn’t write anything until he was 29 and then decided he could write when inspiration hit him at a baseball game.
His books are best sellers and have been translated into 50 languages.
I’ve read most of his novels more than once. They are not copy-pastes of one another. This is not an author who gets the job done by imitating himself. He seems to be trying to give us something about culture and relationships within the context of mystery stories. When I say mystery, you think of a crime story and the search for the culprit. These are not that kind of mystery. You’ll need to read him to find out exactly what I mean, but I’ll try to explain.
His stories are focused around the main character. They have been called existential works because of how they explore alienation and loneliness. His protagonists always seem to have serious relationships with one or more women yet at the same time expect things to fall apart. It almost seems they don’t care when their lover leaves because it was going to happen anyway. It’s been said that, in his later books he moves away from detachment into more social protagonists who engage with the darkness in society.
I haven’t noticed this shift and the only book I’ve avoided is 1Q84. Maybe it’s a one of a kind Murakami novel like his Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World.
Don’t get me wrong. You aren’t plunged into Nietzschean anxiety and despair when you read him. The mystery comes first and the narrator has some hope that everything will work out all right. And if everything turns out for the worst? Well, that’s how life goes sometimes. The cat understands.
His parents both taught Japanese literature so we can guess where he learned to write. He grew up reading great books.
Murakami said, “When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing.” Has he started stories he didn’t consider good and dropped them? We’ll need to wait for him to write his autobiography to know that, but it’s implied.
Murakami deserves more than a short article, but I see only one clear lesson to take away at this time. It is the lesson of his writing path, maybe his life path. His parents taught literature and he read many novels. He already had a foundation of writing knowledge before he started writing. The novels I’ve read are all uniquely Murakami. He writes his novels the way he wants. This implies he’s not studying more about how to write since nothing is throwing him off in new directions. His readers are all thankful for that. There’s no need to change a successful writing style.
He uses his life as a source of inspiration for his novels and takes off from there. He worked in a record store when he was young. So does one of his protagonists. He had his own jazz bar at one time. So does one of his protagonists. His protagonists often have lives that allow them the freedom to schedule their days any way they like, just like successful writers. He writes from what he knows.
Did I say there’s only one lesson? Maybe it’s two.
1. Once you find your writing style and it works, stick with it.
2. Start writing from what you know and let your imagination go from there.
The research part of writing this article has been informative. I’ve been avoiding 1Q84 because of the length and bad reviews. Now that I’ve seen it cited as one of his four most notable works, I’ll be picking up a copy on my next visit to the bookstore.
Article by Ivan Izo.