For anyone just starting out, who is getting caught up in reading too many how-to writing books, and thinking about writing as a craft there’s something you must always remember about fiction writing:
That’s right. I said it.
It sounds cheesy as hell but what truly makes a great story is not something you can define or break up or analyse into pieces. It’s the experience of the story that makes it powerful.
So, what do I mean by the experience?
Think of your favourite film or your favourite story. Sure you can analyse why you like it, but most of the time it’s for how you feel when you read or watch it. It’s that blockbuster feeling, that time when you find an obscure film or music video on late night TV that compels you to watch to the end. It’s that character you just have to follow and see what happens to.
When you engage in a story you are being led down a path, you give up control to the narrator and delve into the mystery of all things.
Sometimes it leads you good places, sometimes not. Sometimes you don’t connect with the story or character at all and wonder why everyone else thinks it’s a brill book/film/tv programme when you think it’s rubbish. But someone, somewhere usually relates to something in your story.
So how do we relate this to our writing projects?
Passion is the key.
When I start writing a new novel, I usually start with an idea or image and then I follow the characters journey. I will think ahead and have ideas but these will often change as I write, leading me to places that I’d never planned to go. There is a risk in this sort of writing that you will write it and then decide you don’t like where its gone. That’s a risk I’m willing to take. Remember you can always cut and paste a big chunk of your story and save all your versions but rewrite the main file. Beware of being too critical but most of the time you’ll either feel it’s working or you won’t. Sometimes it just comes down to instinct.
I always remember that Billy Connolly once said that he didn’t know how comedy stuff worked and what the mechanics of it all was, he was just glad to be there when it showed up…
So remember, the next time you try to be too clever (as many writers try to be), most of the audience want an experience, a story, something that entertains, enlightens, saddens, excites etc etc. Care about your characters and what happens to them, care about what you’re writing about. If you don’t it will fall flat on the page.
Write from your heart, people!
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Yes, it is magic.