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The Clarendon House Master Author Programme Part Two: A Journey

Come with me on a journey to a universe that will at first seem strange, but which, if you understand me, you will slowly come to realise that you have lived in all along.

Things in this universe are arranged as a pyramid: a pyramid with an unbelievably wide base and a small apex.

The greater part of this universe is made up of raw meaning, free, uncombined, infinite. The base of our pyramid, therefore, is made up of the units, sometimes in symbiosis with higher forms, that have the power of fixing meaning from this free-floating cosmos of significance. The number of these units is unimaginably great: suffice it to say that there are millions in anything as big as a pin-head, if they could be given anything like a size. These are morphemes, meaningful morphological units of language that cannot be further divided, and phonemes, the perceptually distinct units of sound in language that distinguish one morpheme from another.

On these, the basic and most essential of all forms that meaning takes, lives a vast host of words — morphemes and phonemes combined, almost chemically, to form powerful containers of significance which enable the communication of meaning.

As we work up our pyramid, or significance chain or however we might like to consider it, we find that each superimposed layer is far less in number than the layer below it — thus, though words are unimaginably numerous across the world’s languages, they are far less in number than the morphemes and phonemes which make them up.

Words fall into equally innumerable and overlapping groupings. Apart from the technical categories of nouns, verbs and so on, there are topical groupings, specialised vocabularies and many other ways in which words gather together linked by significance of some kind, not least of which is the languages or peoples they belong to.

On these words graze people, using them to communicate basic needs, simple ideas and wants, data, information — and fiction. All human beings, using these units of meaning, construct through discourse a universe for themselves. As children we understand objects, actions, qualities and even intangibles through words, and array them accordingly around us, understanding each thing according to the degree that we grasp its associated words.

Writers of fiction are those people who relish the potential of words to create separate sub-universes which have no substance but which are nevertheless real. These float like bubbles within the grander scheme of things, overlapping with the common reality of readers and with each other, interweaving, extending outward and diving inward. It is the writer of fiction who glimpses this creative power of these significance units more than any other.

It doesn’t end there, though. In fact, our journey has just begun.

These new worlds of fiction do not stand in isolation from each other, just as the morphemes and phonemes are interlinked and overlapping below them. They gather together into broad genres, polarising as they do so. Particular definitions for each of the major genres can be found elsewhere — for now, as we delineate our pyramid of aesthetics, we can recognise them along the way on our progress to master authorship.

Under the umbrella of the broad genres swarm the multiplicities of smaller genres and sub-genres, each possessing its own identity but often interlinked and overlapping like the smaller units below them. Crackling across these categories and groupings like electricity comes the literary work which bridges genres altogether and embraces all of them.

You thought being a writer was simpler than this? To be a master author, your journey is towards an even deeper simplicity than you probably imagined.

As we shall see.

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