Saturday, 23 January 2010

"It's the story... stupid!"

What would you consider the best description of a person who writes stories? Author, novelist or playwright naturally spring to mind, but aren’t these merely titles on a par with doctor or manager? Maybe artist, craftsperson or artisan fit the bill. At least these titles give the idea that the person so named is trying to create something. But they don’t give us an idea of what the person is trying to achieve. To get at what that we have to dig a bit deeper. So maybe we should be looking at what makes ‘good writing.’
My idea of a good story includes at least some of these characteristics.
  • The story line pulls me in… it has tension and conflict. I want to know what happens next. 
  • I fall in love with the main character. I want them to overcome all the obstacles.  
  • I have a relationship with all the characters in the story. I find them attractive, funny, intriguing, disturbed or evil but I care about what they are doing.
  • I want the story to be clever with unexpected twists and turns. 
  • Situations must be real. If there is violence, I want to see the blood and feel the fear. 
  • The writer must know what they are doing. They should stick to a point of view and not be mixed up over which tense they are in. 
  • The writing must be immediate and hook me into the action. 
  • I want the story to be ‘about’ something… to have a premise and not only that I want to feel a sense of satisfaction when I come to the end and still want more. 
So, are writers born or are they made? Some people think that they can sit down and write a story that other people will want to read with no effort involved other than the writing. I don’t think that way. Writers have to learn about the art of writing. We should look for and give feedback and be thick skinned in the face of criticism. Take it as a learning opportunity. Most of all, we have to read, read, read and not only read but work out how the author has created the piece… why we love it or indeed, why we hate it.




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