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Meet Vikram Chandra, novelist, professor, programmer

Vikram Chandra is our first keynote speaker. In his session The Art and Craft of Storytelling he will discuss what makes good stories work their magic on audiences and the simple techniques that can create emotionally-engaging, persuasive, and potentially transformative stories.

Photo of Vikram Chandra

Chandra was born in New Delhi, India and currently divides his time between Mumbai and Berkeley. He is a teaching professor in creative writing here at UC Berkeley. Chandra wrote his first novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995), while completing his MA and MFA and working as a computer programmer. His latest book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty (2014), combines his love of code and his love of literature.

In a profile published by the Berkeley News Center in 2005 Vikram elaborates on the ties between programming and effective storytelling:

Chandra believes that novels, like computer programs, exist to solve a problem…”Often in software you’re faced with the same problem presenting itself in slightly different guises, and the most elegant solutions will tend to fall into the same shapes,” he said…”At some point in the semester I’ll get the question, ‘Why does every story have to have a conflict? Can’t we just write something different?’ And my answer is, ‘Yes you can, but will it work? Will anybody want to read it?'” He elaborated: humans are organisms evolutionarily designed over millions of years to look for certain patterns that are pleasing or that work for us by teaching us how to interpret heartbreak over lost love, or over an absent father.

“The worst aspect of that – and this is what the kids dislike, I think – is whether we’re really just talking about formula,” Chandra said. “And yes, to a certain extent you are. The challenge is to do something within that pattern that’s original, that’s pleasing, and has a sense of the expected – but that blows our mind with the surprise that it holds within itself.”

Read the full article to learn more about Vikram’s journey from a childhood in India to a master storyteller with a million dollar publishing deal.

Watch Chandra on Story Hour at the Library
Read more about his four major works
Image via How AI may help you write your new book

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