Ian Sears

Starting My Novel

For my senior thesis I’m exploring the concept of narrative identity, basically the idea that we form our identities through stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the world, by writing a novel. I’m currently taking summer classes and volunteering at the Jubilee Soup Kitchen, so my allotted time this summer to work on my thesis doesn’t begin until July 1st, but that hasn’t stopped me from laying out the groundwork for my project.

I’ve decided my novel will be set at a large tech company (not exactly sure what sort yet) in Silicon Valley. Having attended Gunn High School in Palo Alto, I’m very familiar with the area and its culture, and have set a few of my short stories there in the past. The novel will center around a few intelligent slackers who manage to get by without doing much by falling through the cracks at the large company they all work at. This will of course backfire for them later on in the story, but I want to introduce my characters in a somewhat tranquil setting before I plunge them into conflict. I have a lot of ideas for where the novel will go, but some of them are mutually exclusive, so I don’t really want to put them on this blog yet. As of now, I’ve done a lot more work generating choices for where the story can go than actually deciding between these choices, so once I make more decisions, I will have more to report back on.

Outside of class, volunteering, and writing, I’ve been doing some reading and have been watching some films and television. I just finished reading The Magus by John Fowles and am about to read The Sellout by Paul Beatty and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As far as films and television, I’ve adapted this William Faulkner quote to guide my viewing: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” Though I suppose I should read more terrible books, shoddy films are much less of an investment of my time and I often find I’m more inspired by a bad film than a good one. To this end, I’ve been making my way through the Fast and Furious series. Though most of the dialogue is terrible and much of the acting is flat or overdone, there is something really human about these sorts of mistakes that I just love. As far as more critically acclaimed films, I recently saw Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal and Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and have been rewatching some of my favorite David Lynch films, as well as catching up on the reboot of Twin Peaks. No matter whether I love or hate something Lynch makes, I always feel challenged by it, and his work is a well of inspiration I can always draw something new from.

It’s been exciting going from nothing to the foundations of a novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the coming weeks and months.

Learn more about my project.

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Exploring Narrative Identity Through Fiction

searsI was born in Manhattan and lived in Darren, Connecticut until I was seven, when my family moved to Australia. Living in Australia while my father pursued his Ph.D. gave me a different perspective on being an American. There, the academic culture was focused on obtaining knowledge and enriching one’s life, placing less emphasis on status and material wealth.

When my family eventually moved to Palo Alto, California, I was—for better or worse—able to retain a more laid-back attitude toward life and school than many of my American peers. In Palo Alto, I attended Gunn High School. I find that the culture at Carnegie Mellon is very similar to Gunn – they’re both home to many intelligent and creative people who are passionate about what they do, but there are also many who feel a lot of pressure to succeed and prioritize academic success above everything else.

I began to pursue music and writing at Gunn, where I played guitar in a rock band and bass in a jazz quartet. During my senior year of high school, I wrote the first 126 pages of a terrible novel that spurred me to major in creative writing. My friends and I also enjoyed—and still enjoy—making short films in our free time, most of which appear on YouTube under the name “We’re Bandits Productions.” At first, engaging in these pursuits clashed with my schoolwork, but as I’ve gotten older and my classes have become more tailored to my interests, my hobbies and my work inform each other more and more.

Writing a novel for my thesis is the best and most natural possible outcome of my time at CMU, and I hope it will ultimately lead to a career as a novelist.

Learn more about my project.

Meet the Fellows

Fellows-17-18-group

Front row (left to right): Naomi Sternstein, Kayla Lee, Karen Nguyen, You Bin Maeng, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Lauren Yan; back row (left to right): Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ian Sears, David Beinhart, Yong H. Kim, Isabel Bleimeister

In early May, members of the 2016-17 group of Honors Fellows joined the 2017-18 cohort for lunch, where they discussed their challenges and successes and offered pointers to the new group.

Attendees included David Beinhart, Isabel Bleimeister, Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Yong H. Kim, Kayla Lee, You Bin Maeng, Karen Nguyen, Ian Sears, Naomi Sternstein and Lauren Yan.