Book cover of the novel, Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik. A great story, a cult novel and a fascinating film.
Introduction to the Quote: Writing is Not Natural…
The purpose of studying the craft of writing is not to clip your creative wings. Poets study form, artists study perspective, dancers study movements, actors study stagecraft and musicians study theory of music. They discuss, analyse and practice methods developed and honed by those who went before. Generally speaking it makes them better at what they do.
Of course it’s possible to acquire the knack of writing a novel that works using the technique of trial and error.
This is sometimes called drafting or writing for year after year in a frenzy of despair, wondering why it doesn’t work, tearing out your hair, throwing away hundreds of thousands of words and making mistake after mistake, receiving rejection after rejection [you can tell I’ve been through this] until in exasperation and madness you finally find out what a story actually is and how to translate it into the symbols we call the written word.
A story essentially is a story. It has structure, form, tonal qualities and reader expectations. For centuries bards and storytellers were revered for their art. In the Celtic Druidic tradition they studied for years at a bardic college. In most cultures stories were handed down through generations and all the teller had to do was remember it, embellish a little and put on a good performance for the audience.
Nowadays, readers expect a novel to be a newly minted story every time. They invest time and energy into reading something created by someone who knows how to shape thoughts into words on the page. Writing creatively is quite new in the evolution of the human species. It isn’t natural. It isn’t the spoken word. And it isn’t a memory test.
This week’s quote is taken from Larry Brooks’ new book Story Physics. It’s a great nubbin of advice about one of the most crucial elements in the study of novel writing. Reading. Oh, and watching films because they are stories too. By the way, this advice works the same for pantsers as well as plotters. Understanding what a story is – is the ultimate craft of the novelist.
The universal story itself is your muse, your foundation, your wings and your passion.
“I think the most illuminating, clarifying and empowering thing writers can do to improve their craft is to read or see and then analyse stories in all genres. Break them down into their component parts and milestones with a view toward seeing what makes them tick, and behold the power of story architecture at work. Again, once you know it, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. It’ll be there in every story you read or view going forward…”
Thanks Larry. J x