Dissertation Corner

In this week’s instalment of Dissertation Corner, MA Creative Writing student Silje shares her thoughts on writing a creative dissertation, which explores topics such as prejudice against drug addiction as well as the strong bond between siblings.

What is your dissertation about? My dissertation is first and foremost an extract of a contemporary, urban novel I have written. It tells the story of a girl who has to team up with a Valkyrie in order to stop the Norse Gods from ending her and her brother’s lives. But the novel also explores topics such as drug abuse, strong, complicated sibling relationships and how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep the people you love safe. The tone is perhaps quite dark to some readers, and the setting cold and unwelcoming. For my critical commentary, I am focusing on voice, character and the political issue regarding drug addiction.


What inspired your story/poem/script? Prejudice against drug addiction was the first thing that popped up in my head when I started drafting and plotting the novel. I wanted to show just how badly society has influenced our view and presumption. I wanted to truly dig into the neat and gritty of a people’s prejudice. But then I wanted to bring in fantastical elements too, in order to put obstacles in the way for my main character, who has to look after her former addict brother. Also, the series Euphoria and the music in the series really set the tone and the voice of my characters. I listened to the whole album that came out with the series, produced by the artist Labrinth.


How did you choose the texts for the project? I had a lot of novels that inspired my novels, such as Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell when it came to a humorous voice, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, as well as Poetic Edda by Snorri Sturluson, which tells the story of the Norse Gods and their characters through a collection of poems. Another great book that has helped when redrafting the novel is Mark Fisher’s the Weird and the Eerie.


Has your dissertation changed much since submitting your proposal? I don’t think it has changed drastically. I have gone through some editing with my supervisor, removing certain bits and rearranging a set of chapters, as well as making the tone of the story more precise. Other than that, I have not done any major changes to it. 


What interests you about this topic/style/theme? I think what really interest me is to see just how badly someone can be influenced by what others say and their opinions. I also love exploring Norse Mythology as well as trying to make the setting and tone eerie and creepy.


What have you enjoyed most and what have you struggled most with? I think what I have enjoyed the most are my characters. I find them so intriguing and funny to write. It’s a joy to sit down every day to work on it, which is the most important part. I think what I’ve struggled the most with is trying to make the tone dark and eerie enough. I believe it’ll take a few more drafts in order to see the novel in its best possible shape.


What has it been like working closely with an academic supervisor? It has been wonderful. My supervisor is offering so many good thoughts and tips on the extracts I’ve shown him. It’s just nice to get a second pair of eyes on my writing, too! It really helps when it comes to the structure, the plot and the voice of the story.