Amy Tan’s story writing keynote offers a clear picture of how the internationally acclaimed author gathers her thoughts and ideas for a novel.
Tan’s captivating speech begins by questioning a few things that have surrounded her all her life: expectations, superstitions and death. Growing up in a Chinese family, Tan’s parents had hoped that she would become a doctor and pianist, but she dreamed of being an artist. Art, the author amusingly explains, can be created through many channels like moral dilemmas, trauma, tragedy and fate.
She compares the process of creativity to quantum mechanics, stating that there is a level of uncertainty known only by its absence and is absolutely necessary in writing. Only when one is looking for the absent will they discover something new in a serendipitous way. As Tan writes her novels, she submerges herself in the shoes of her characters. Compassion, she stresses, is a significant part in the journey of creating enchanting characters. Only when the author can put themselves in the story and feel what’s in the story “until there is a transparency” will the characters come to life.