Want to improve your short story writing skills? This Salman Rushdie Masterclass review explains what you’ll learn and if it’s worth it.
I’ve always wanted to learn writing from someone who’s received a knighthood. So you can bet I was excited when Masterclass released Salman Rushdie’s video lessons. He didn’t disappoint.
I took this class to learn about storytelling, but walked away with so much more. I like that he tells us about his life experiences, mistakes he made, and exercises he used to become a better storyteller.
Storytelling is deeply ingrained into our DNA. We can’t live without it. This makes it an important skill to master because if you can keep people’s attention, you can get them to do almost anything. Whether it’s reading your book or buying a product or service.
There are few people alive that understand the art of storytelling like Salman Rushdie. He has published several bestselling novels and is an expert in keeping people’s attention for a long time.
In his Masterclass, he shares his experiences and the mistakes he made on his storytelling journey. He also gives tips and techniques that he uses to beat common writing problems.
Who Is Salman Rushdie And Why Should You Take His Masterclass?
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a British novelist, author, and essayist born on June 19, 1947. He started out as an avid reader, and after years of reading, decided to write a novel for the first time. It was titled Grimus. He published this novel in 1975, at the young age of 28.
After publishing his first book, he wrote best-sellers like;
- Midnight’s Children
- The Satanic Verses.
His writing style is a blend between Western and Eastern culture, which is difficult to find in other novels.
He’s also good at evoking curiosity in readers since his stories combine historical fiction and surrealism. He says, “Realism can break a writer’s heart.”
His book Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize in 1981 and The Best of the Booker prize in 2008.
According to Rushdie, one of the biggest reasons why he's so successful is that he lived in 3 different cities for most of his life and understands different cultures. This allows him to incorporate diverse perspectives into his books.
Rushdie also received a knighthood for his accomplishments in literature on June 16, 2007. He said, “I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honor, and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way.”
A few decades ago, there was no internet, and it would be impossible to learn a skill from someone who’s received a knighthood. Now, we can do that with a click of a button.
Who Is This Masterclass For?
This online course is a helpful starting point if you’re just getting into storytelling and want to learn the basics. It also trains your mind to think like an author and create a plot and characters that your readers can’t wait to learn more about.
Short Story Writers
If you’re into writing stories that range from 1,000 words to 10,000 words, then this Masterclass will teach you how to hook your readers within a few paragraphs. This is helpful if you’re a short story writer because conveying necessary information in a few words is crucial.
Another helpful Masterclass to take if you’re into writing short stories is by Joyce Carol Oates. She’s written multiple famous short stories over her 60-year writing career.
If you’re an aspiring novelist, you must take Salman Rushdie’s Masterclass. He shows how to create characters that your readers can relate to and keep their attention throughout 300 pages.
Any aspiring novelist in the past would kill to take a class given by someone who’s received a knighthood.
There are also other courses on Masterclass.com that emphasize different parts of storytelling. For example, James Patterson’s Masterclass emphasizes research, editing, and creating an outline for your novel.
What Is Salman Rushdie Masterclass Like?
His Masterclass consists of 19 HD videos that are 4 hours 17 minutes long. You get access to a PDF workbook that allows you to follow his lessons without watching the videos. It contains helpful exercises so you’re not only learning but practicing.
His 19 videos are:
- Meet your instructor: 04:36
- Determine how to tell your story: 08:20
- Flesh out your story’s structure: 14:21
- Opening lines with power: 12:37
- Drawing from storytelling traditions: 16:57
- Convincing characters: 13:11
- Bringing characters to life: 08:56
- Revealing character: 16:19
- Setting as a character: 12:36
- Your unmistakably unique worldview: 20:36
- Observing the world: 11:24
- Developing your narrative style: 22:39
- Building a surreal story: 17:17
- Researching the novel: 11:32
- All writing is rewriting: 16:34
- Editing and feedback: The confidence to share: 16:43
- Develop your relationship with writing: 15:24
- Salman’s Global Canon: 08:03
- Seven useful tips for writers: 09:04
How Much Does His Masterclass Cost?
To get access to this Masterclass, you’ll need to sign up for an annual all-access pass for $180. This gives you access to other helpful writing courses like;
These are all iconic instructors to learn from, and you get insight into the techniques they use to write stories that readers love.
What I’ve Learnt From The Salman Rushdie Masterclass
Rushdie has written several bestselling books over his 50-year writing career. In that time, he has learned from different teachers and developed a unique perspective on the world. This perspective is worth listening to and learning from since he has overcome every writing problem you face as a writer.
I also appreciated how he shares the writing mistakes he made over his long career. If you learn from his mistakes, then you won’t have to make them yourself. It’s like a shortcut to writing books that readers love.
For example, at the beginning of his career, Rushdie struggled with writer’s block. After years of trial and error, he found that if he wrote the first draft without being too critical, ideas would flow. Now he recommends that everyone write the first draft without expecting it to be perfect.
In this online course, these were the most important lessons I learned.
Place Is As Important As The Character
Most authors will put all their efforts into creating a compelling character that readers can relate to and ignore where the story takes place. But in this online course, Rushdie says it's a big mistake.
Creating a clear and exciting place is as important, if not more important, than creating characters.
Rushdie suggests that we put as much care, love, and effort into portraying the place as we do with our characters.
Authors also like emphasizing how a character interacts with one another. But how your characters interact with the place your story takes place in is also essential. Place gives your readers an outline of what type of people your characters are and their values.
For example, if your main character lives in a palace with 20 bedrooms and bathrooms, your readers know that he or she is part of high society. Maybe they’re a businessperson, king, queen, or celebrity. This gives your readers context to work with when painting a picture in their heads.
Rushdie starts building the foundation of where the story takes place before thinking about any characters. It doesn’t have to be a city or country. It can be a street, cafe, or bedroom.
He puts so much effort into creating a place because he lived in three different cities during his life. He lived in Bombay, London, and New York. Each has a different culture and set of values.
Another essential factor to consider when describing a place is time. For example, if you’re writing a story in 1970s New York, then there wouldn’t be a Metlife building, rather a Panam Building. This is where research plays a vital role in making sure your story is accurate.
Stop Using Adjectives In Your Stories
Another trick I learned from his online classes is to stop using adjectives. Rushdie gives his students an exercise where they must think of a place that means a lot to them and write about it without using adjectives.
According to Rushdie, adjectives are an easy way for writers to start getting lazy.
When you stop using adjectives like beautiful and attractive, it forces you to tell a story. Instead of telling your readers that the house was beautiful, you’re now forced to explain how it looked and what specifically made it attractive.
Another reason to not use adjectives is that it’s subjective. What one person thinks is beautiful might be hideous to the next person. When you stop using adjectives, you get rid of the ambiguity and make your story crystal clear.
If you use this rule when writing short stories or novels, you’ll see your storytelling ability improve real quick.
Discover Your Unique Worldview
According to Rushdie, one of the best things to develop as a new writer is a unique worldview. Great writers like Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald all have unique worldviews, and they use this in their writing. That’s why they’re considered the greats. Nobody and emulate them.
Developing a worldview as a writer takes time and self-exploration. Sit in a quiet room and visualize a picture of your life in your head. Think of what’s important to you. Your north star. That’ll be the center of the portrait.
Next, what do you like doing for fun? What are your hobbies? These activities will fall in the background behind your north star.
Last, take a moment and clarify your beliefs and ethics. Maybe you believe that everyone is put on this Earth for a purpose, and we must fulfill that purpose. On the opposite side of the spectrum, perhaps you think that life is random and meaningless. There’s no right and wrong answer. This should also fall in the background of your portrait.
Another helpful exercise for writers is to draw a portrait of their worldview.
If you look at ancient pieces of art, you’ll see this expressed perfectly. There’ll be a woman in the center or a young prince with lots of money. In the background, people are going about their day, selling bread, and talking to friends.
You might be thinking, “How is this helpful when writing a story?”. Well, what makes writers great is that their work is unique, and nobody can emulate it. When you write a story with your worldview in mind, you add your own personal touch to it, and nobody can emulate your work.
Increase Your Knowledge
“Write what you know about.” This is common writing advice that instructors give. But Rushdie tells us to increase our knowledge to write a most diverse and detailed story.
Most writers do this the wrong way. They’ll use search engines and social media to increase their knowledge. Although you can learn a lot from search engines, it’s an artificial way of learning since you’re adopting other people’s beliefs instead of forming your own.
A better way to increase your knowledge as a writer is to experience things for yourself. If your story takes place in Milan, go to Milan and meet people. Absorb the atmosphere, culture, and listen to the locals.
Increasing your knowledge doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, if you’re writing a book on the struggles that a minority group face, go out and meet them. Ask questions, listen, and get to know them. Discover instead of deciding for yourself.
All Writing Is Rewriting
A helpful technique that powered me through the first few years of my writing career is to write without being too critical. Rushdie is also a big fan of this and encourages all his students to not be too critical when writing a first draft.
Writer’s block is a problem all writers struggle with, and the biggest reason for it is being too critical. Your first draft won’t be perfect, and that’s why we edit. But you must have something to work with before you can add, remove, and swap words and sentences.
According to Rushdie, it’s better to write a terrible first draft than to sit and do nothing.
Once you have something down, you gain confidence in writing , and your critical imagination kicks it. This is the part of your brain that decides if something is irrelevant or missing. Now it’s time to be critical.
Draw Inspiration From Old Stories
According to Rushdie, most old stories are leftovers of religions that people no longer believe in. For example, the Greek God stories were once text from the Greek religion.
These stories have been endured for thousands of years, and it’s not by accident. It’s because they’re exciting and engaging stories.
Another reason why they’re so popular is that they’re truthful about human nature, even if it’s about Gods. The Gods are greedy, vengeful, and full of human faults. But they’re also kind, noble, and loving at the same time.
We can think of ourselves when reading these stories and relate to them.
When writing The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Rushdie took inspiration from the ancient Greek story about Orpheus & Eurydice. He falls in love with her, but she dies from a snake bite. He then follows her beyond her death and into the underworld to try and save her.
When brainstorming story ideas, look back at ancient stories that stuck with us for thousands of years. Use these stories as an outline and add your personal worldview to them.
Is This Masterclass Worth It?
People in the past would kill to learn from a world-renowned author that received a knighthood. It’s worth it since you’ll learn everything about storytelling, creating characters, plots, and drawing inspiration from older stories.
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Salman Rushdie Masterclass Teaches Storytelling and Writing
The Bottom Line
Storytelling is an important skill to have in the modern world. It allows you to keep people’s attention for long periods and encourage them to keep turning the page. If you can keep your reader’s attention for over 300 pages, then you’re on your way to building your own base of readers.
One of the best instructors to watch on the Masterclass platform is Salman Rushdie. They're full of golden nuggets of information. Another instructor that teaches storytelling in an easy-to-understand manner is James Patterson. If you like Rushdie’s Masterclass, you’ll love Patterson’s.
Last, if you want to write children’s stories, then there’s no better instructor to learn from than Judy Blume.
- You learn from a world-renowned author
- It teaches you everything you need to know about storytelling
- Advanced storytellers can also learn from this class
- If you're a surrealist and you're into writing thought-provoking books, then this online class is for you.
- It’s a lecture-based Masterclass. If you want something more conversational or informal, opt for Joyce Carol Oates’ Masterclass
- Video lessons are slow-paced
- Doesn’t emphasize structure and outlining your novel
- Not for non-fiction writers or those who dislike surrealism