Roald Dahl would have turned 101 today. From his cozy, quiet, humble Writing Hut in his garden, Dahl created the colorful characters of Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, the Oompa Loompas, Matilda, the Big Friendly Giant, the Twits, the Enormous Crocodile, the Roly Poly Bird, Muggle-Wump (and his family), Danny (the champion of the world), James (and the giant peach), George (with his marvelous medicine), Mr. Fox, and countless others.
The Roald Dahl Treasury contains several ideas from Dahl for aspiring writers. His suggestions, though focused on writing, can be useful to artists working in any medium.
Collecting ideas: Dahl describes how capturing an idea must be done immediately, or else it will flit away forever. He recommends keeping a notebook and a pencil nearby at all times. But if you’re without them, a tube of lipstick on a scrap of paper can make do.
Notes and Clippings: Dahl explains that having photos helps in developing more detailed written portraits of characters, and that keeping track of interesting tidbits of information can come in handy. “Begin collecting pictures and facts that you think might be useful for your future writing,” he advises.
Enthrall Your Reader: Dahl confesses that his main concern when writing is “a constant unholy terror of boring the reader.” He says he always tries to create scenarios where the reader will: laugh, squirm, become enthralled, or tense and excited. He also notes that all good books have some very horrid, nasty people in them, because they are far more interesting than only having pleasant people in them.
Charlie’s Story: Dahl tells of a time when he showed the manuscript of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to his nephew. When the nephew said he didn’t like it at all, Dahl rewrote it all over again. He says, “You’ll find when you rewrite you pick out the best material from what you have written.”
But perhaps the most powerful idea that Dahl shares here is that those who aspire to write must just begin. He reassures us: “Everything develops under the pencil as you being to write. It really does. Once someone said to Stravinsky, a great composer, ‘Maestro, where do you get your ideas? In the bath? Shaving? Or, exploring the woods in the moonlight?’ And he responded, ‘At the piano.'”
And so it was with Dahl at his desk in his hut.
And so it could be for you at your keyboard, mouse, Wacom tablet, canvas, or 3D printer. The idea might not start there, but everything develops there.