Monday, August 16, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: What's the Point?

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

-- Rule number one of eight in Kurt Vonnegut's rules for writing a short story, from Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction.

A common problem with short stories (or any fiction, really) is a dreadful one: a story with no point. As much as your reader wants to see well-developed characters and engaging action, they also want to be able to pinpoint why they are reading and why you were writing. This isn't to say that every work of fiction should be one of Aesop's fables or conquer some sort of grandiose theme, but your reader should be able to come away with as much of a sense of importance as you had when writing.

In Jack Bickman's book, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, he discusses logic in relation to fiction and the importance of the whys of each part of your story: "Because fiction is make-believe, it has to be more logical than real life if it is to be believed. In real life, things may occur for no apparent reason. But in fiction you the writer simply cannot ever afford to lose sight of logic and let things happen for no apparent reason."

As a general rule, you want your reader to be able to easily grasp the point of your story. Be sure you answer all of the "why" of your story. Write about things that matter to you; if you really don't care, the reader will be able to tell. Write with passion. Spice up your characters, make them human, even throw a hardship or two at them. Develop a new take on a subject, or whatever you need to do to give your story a reason to be.

Without that, you have nothing that lingers after the reader finishes your story. The second the last page is turned, your reader could be thinking about when the laundry will be finished, what they will have for lunch tomorrow, etc. With all of the things we invest our time in, make your story one that the reader will not regret. And if you're lucky, it just might be the new topic over coffee or at the dinner table.

No comments:

Post a Comment