Friday, November 23, 2012

What is Story but Making Sense


"... Trying to make sense of the things that you think (of)." ~ Nick Hornsby

I like that line a lot, as a writer I'm always trying to make sense of the things that I think of. More often than not I have a notion, but no idea, ha, ha. No idea what that notion will lead to, and I only find out by writing.

Sometimes I start writing about my day, or about last night's turkey, or the cherry pie. The cherry pie in particular, because it's so easy to make. You just dump the contents of a can of cherry pie filling in a Graham crackers crust and put it in the oven for a bit. That's what my friend's mom told me. Often simple things are the best.

Sometimes simple things get lost in translation, sometimes even in a conversation with people who assume they speak the same language. One person's turkey day is another person's bane. Oi vey.

For some a "story" is personal, for others story equals premise, while for "stringers" it's how many meaningful words they're allowed to fit in a newspaper column. And that's only the beginning. We all interpret the meaning of "story" in a different way. Unless or until we're taking a creative writing class and the teacher hammers on using the same vernacular.

The Art of Spotting - Judith van Praag
Countless the times that someone told me, someone I respected, someone whose opinion was of value to me even, "Now there's a story." And I would say, "What, where?" I knew I had just related an experience, performed if you will the dialogue, but I knew just that was not enough to make a story.
Knowing the story, or even more importantly why a story would be of interest to readers, and what the justification to try and have those words of published is way more difficult than writing a hundred thousand words. Seeing the forest for the trees is an accomplishment, so is noticing the gem among the pebbles, or better yet the pebble that speaks to you.


Anna Elliott's post "Commitment" on the blog Writer Unbound triggered the above musings. IN her post Elliott disagreed with a phrase attributed to TV series Castle's title role character Richard Castle: “I already have the story. That’s the hardest part.”

Do I believe that Castle has the "story" before writing anything at all? No, I don't. But neither do I believe Castle, the (fictional) author is a newbie. In my mind Castle has put in his 10,000+ hours to perfect his craft already. He's got a file cabinet filled with newspaper clips dating back to his college years, he's got transcripts of court cases, folders within folders with words he's written already, character sketches, scenes and situations, and shelves of Who Donits in his leer.

That's why I believe him when he says "I already have the story." Because knowing what it is you want to say is the hardest.

Write on, write on writer, and the story may come to you.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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