I am still reading/absorbing Wired For Story by LisaCron and still astounded by the statement that: “beautiful writing trumps all” is a myth.
The reality is that “storytelling trumps beautiful writing, every time.”
I was rooming with two writer friends at a Bouchercon conference years ago. We'd been given a tote full of free books and had piled them all on one of the beds to begin reading first paragraphs aloud to each other to see which ones caught our attention (so we could take those home and donate the rest back).
One friend had the arc copy of The Da Vinci Code (the arc is the Advanced Reading Copy usually given to reviewers before the book is published) and she just handed to me and said, here I think you might like this with your artist background (The title). I opened it, read it aloud and was hooked. Why?
The characters were not fabulous or particularly well drawn, the dialogue wasn’t great, the imagery in the churches was only written to point to the next clue and it didn’t contain luscious language to enthrall the reader. (my opinion)
So why was I immediately hooked, as was apparently millions of others? Because, from the very first page I was dying to know what happens next. The story has a sense of urgency from the first paragraph.
That is not to disparage beautifully written stories. After all, if they also abide by the storytelling criteria, they can be a fabulous read. The point, Cron makes is, “learning to write well is not synonymous with learning to write a story.”
Story telling first, writing well, secondary.
If you pick up a book and don’t care what happens next, what does it matter how well it is written?
A cognitive truth from Chapter 2:
“When the brain focuses its full attention on something, it filters out all unnecessary information.”
The story secret Cron goes on to point out,
“To hold the brain’s attention, everything in a story must be there on a need-to-know basis,” so your “first job is to zero in on the point your story is making.”
It becomes necessary to take out all unnecessary and distracting information. Too often writers fall in love with their own words and quickly lose the reader because they fail to stay focused on the protagonist’s issue (or worse-haven't figured out what it is, the theme and the plot.
Chew on this and consider whether you write to story or write to enthrall others with your beautiful descriptions. Is it more important to you--to be read by many or admired for beautiful prose?
Have the books you've read lately, left you flat--maybe put too much emphasis on beautiful writing and not enough on story?
Chime right in…