|(Photo by Chris J. Fries - 2012: Morning Fog)|
So in my last post, I wrote how a chance auditory tidbit from NPR had resonated with me. Hearing, "all that matters is that it's a good story" during an evening commute stuck with me, and it reminded me of the importance of story in the works I write.
Yes, a successful story still takes finely-honed skill to write, so I absolutely agree that every effort a writer makes to improve their prose is a needed one -- I am continuously working to refine my craft and I know that it is vital to do so. To use a 'guy' analogy: A story is like the design of a football play. The play is the blueprint for how each player is expected to perform his part, but it still takes skillful execution to bring that blueprint to life. And just like there's a difference in how a play will turn out depending on whether you have Peyton Manning or your local high school's JV quarterback under center, there's a difference between how two writers will accomplish a story, depending on how well they have mastered their writing craft.
Still, not even Peyton Manning can save a poorly-designed play, and no writer can overcome a weak story, regardless of how well-written it is.
So as a writer, I always want to make sure my story is the focus, and that it is the best it can be? Absolutely!
OK -- sounds great! Make the story the centerpiece, and make it a good one.
But, ummm... Just what is a "story", and how the hell do I know if it's a good one?
Is it like 'art' or 'pornography' in that it can't be defined, but that "you know it when you see it?" Is it something shrouded in a subjective fog of perspective, and it's hopeless to even attempt to define it since it's different for every person? Does it require a forage into the misty forest of aesthetics and philosophy to even begin to understand what makes a story and to tell if it is "good" or not?
Well, it's not like I'm an expert. After all, as a writer I'm still clunking away, striving to get my first story published -- good or otherwise.
However, I do think I can break through the fog at least a little, and perhaps shed some light on defining just what a story is. And I might even be able to at least highlight a few key elements a story needs in order for it to aspire to, you know, "goodishness".
But this will take way more than one post...
So I welcome you to join me in an upcoming series as I take my sledge-hammer of rookie-writer understanding and try to do delicate neurosurgery on just what makes a good story. I have no set schedule -- this may take the next two posts, or it may take the next twenty. I'll shoot for a new post every Monday and Thursday as we work our way through it.
I'm looking forward to the journey, and I'd be extremely happy to have you travel with me. Your thoughts, feedback, and comments are always welcome on each and every stage of the trip.