Archive | April 2014

A compelling story

The heart and soul of story revolves around the characters: how they suffer, how they succeed, how they overcome obstacles, how they learn forgiveness and redemption, how they plough forward through life.
In Nancy Lamb’s “The Art and Craft of Storytelling”, we learn that “all powerful stories contain an essential core of personal truth- some essence drawn from real life that connects fictional awareness (how cool is that phrase- ‘fictional awareness’) with a writer’s direct or secondhand experience. This truth needn’t mirror the concrete world. Perhaps it is an emotional truth, a spiritual one, that resonates with the writer and forms the core of a story. Or perhaps this truth is an unconscious one, an association and motivation not fully understood at the beginning.”
I write my blogs to convey not only a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art of writing, but also to connect the world of fiction to the world of reality that we all live- day to day. Over the course of my studies of writing, I have learned that to be a good writer one must pay close attention to the details of day to day living- listening to conversations, studying the sounds of nature, turning up the focus dial to high so that even the faint cracks in the sidewalk stand out along our evening or early morning jogs. We writers learn that those details may one day come in handy as long as we recognize the opportunity to appreciate them when they come up, and store them in our ‘writer’s tool box’. In other words, we must live in the “now”, in the moment -for our readers. This way we can bring that ‘now’ or life lesson to those readers when they most need them….. in the form of a well crafted story.
“It is fiction that has the capacity to illuminate, to touch a reader on not only an intellectual level but a visceral one. It is that truth- deep and layered and passionate- that great storytellers express. And it is the uncovering of this truth- the search, the investigation, the examination- that makes a story compelling.” Nancy Lamb tells us this in her comprehensive guide to classic writing techniques.
Without the ability to create character, to enable him to acknowledge his challenge, then overcome it, we could not weave together a story that has the power to unveil a lesson, while simultaneoulsy drawing our reader deep inside. The fictional awareness we inspire allows our readers to look inside themselves or conversely, at the world around them, to see more clearly the things that once lay hidden from them.
By connecting the reader to our characters, tying her to her emotion- we enable her to grasp a fact or a lesson about war, suffering or the flaws in society, or whatever lesson she seeks, in a way that will affect her most deeply.
It is, after all, the ‘compelling story’ that we craft that delivers her sought- after lesson and it is our duty as writers to dig through the piles of life’s issues, plucking the lessons out from the waste that surrounds them so that our readers do not have to.

The Journey from innocence to understanding

Just as we travel on our own journeys through the growing of dreams to our successes or failures to make them come true, through endless unanswered questions and trials and errors, we often find ourselves searching for self amidst the noise and clamor of a confusing and challenging world.
Take for instance Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye” written by J.D. Salinger. Holden searches for meaning in a world of “phonies” following the experience of the death of his brother. As Holden weaves his way through one bad situation after another, he remains lost and alone in a dark world where he can find no light. As he drifts in and out of pain and confusion, his innocence is lost and he ultimately comes to understand there is hope to begin a new life.
Holden goes on a journey from innocence, confusion and frustration where he encounters life changing situations that reshape him, ultimately allowing him to realize that it could actually be okay. Throughout his journey, he searches for meaning and longs for home, passing through pain and darkness as he makes his way slowly toward the light that he has so much trouble finding.
And so, as Salinger did with Holden Caulfied, the writer will have his hero embark on a psychological, physical or emotional journey where he descends first into darkness before he is able to walk again in the light. Just as we do in real life, stepping from milestone to milestone, from challenge to challenge, often falling here and there along the way but ultimately getting back up on our feet, our hero takes us on his journey from innocence to understanding, from darkness to light- showing us that the attempt itself- the experiences we encounter and the lessons we learn- the journey- is actually the success we seek. As each of us should in real life, our protagonist must change in some way by the time he reaches the end of his journey.