Lorenzo Reading Series: Linden MacIntyre

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On Thursday, Jan. 22nd, Linden MacIntyre participated in the Lorenzo Reading Series at UNBSJ. MacIntyre read from his fourth novel entitled Punishment.

The Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre was packed full as the audience sat captivated by MacIntyre, who read an excerpt from his book. Punishment is a novel that explores the ideas of forgiveness and loss, of justice and vengeance.

MacIntyre is known to many as the host of CBC’s investigative television show The Fifth Estate, as well as having produced multiple documentaries set in various locations around the world.

When asked how he transitioned from television to writing, MacIntyre had this to say: “I understand many people have difficulty with the television medium. I never did. Perhaps because I grew up in an oral culture, where people “performed” stories in front of other people I had a sense of story-telling that enabled me to address an audience.”

MacIntyre elaborates, “I had to learn to be more concise in my writing, to learn to reduce sometimes complicated ideas and information into simple, declarative sentences that were comprehensible to a viewer/listener who wouldn’t be able to turn back a page to take a second run at getting something. But that was a valuable skill to learn and it has come in handy for writing fiction: concision, clarity, active rather than passive sentences. Television also forced me to listen more closely to what was being said, to be alert for disclosures or interesting turns that begged for further questions. Doing this improved my ear for dialogue, which has also been a useful capability in writing fiction. And so I found the subsequent transition into writing fiction to be relatively natural if not easy.”

MacIntyre was asked what inspires him and what he looks for when writing a new book, and explained, “I’m inspired by people and events that make me think about the large themes and issues that affect the way we live, the way society develops. I suppose the two great issues in my time in journalism have to do with the pursuit of “justice” and the fairness/effectiveness of the justice systems, and the consequences of violence.”

When asked if any of his characters were based on real people that he either knew or has encountered, MacIntyre said, “Characters in fiction are rarely based on specific people in real life but tend to be composites drawn from what we observe as traits in many people that we meet. Sometimes a dominant trait will make a character in fiction seem recognizable but I certainly don’t base the people I invent on specific individuals.”

For those wondering what advice MacIntyre has for aspiring writers, it is this, “My only advice has to be based on personal experience: we learn to write by doing it; we succeed when we have something to write about, and feel passionate that it’s a subject/story that will inform, enlighten, entertain other people; and are prepared to put in the many unrewarding, lonely hours required to coax a story out of the imagination and give it life in a format that other people can access and relate to. Restrain expectations. Be on guard for any motivation that might be infected by vanity or a hunger for fame and fortune. Very few writers, compared to the vast number of people who write, become famous. Few serious writers become wealthy writing.”