Pat Rice reporting in:
I’m deep in revisions and spinning wheels backward faster than usual trying to escape one of the really tough parts about writing. Which means, of course, that I’ve been thinking about everything except what I’m working on.
As I sit here ripping out my hair and wearing out my thesaurus looking for just the right word, to fit in just the right phrase, to manipulate a sentence in just the right way, to get the reaction I want, I have come to the conclusion that there are many levels of writing, and I’m struggling for a level I may never achieve. Which isn’t bad, considering I’m already at a level most people can never come close to, but human nature requires motivation, and I’m only human. When I’m not just plain weird. <G>
Many people are storytellers. The spoken word comes easily to their glib tongues and they can manipulate audience reaction with a wink or a grimace and just the right sound of their voice at the right time. The trouble begins when a storyteller attempts to put those stories to a blank page. It’s impossible to see audience reaction, much less translate a wink and grimace into a computer. This is the point where we probably lose some of our very best storytellers. Their words will never reach the written page.
Then there are people like me, who have wallowed in the written word all our lives, soaked in stories through our pores, observed the world around us, and who pulsate with vivid images screaming to be released. Most of us aren’t aural storytellers. We’re very comfortable with the written word. But the stories in our heads are just like those of the aural storytellers—they need an audience. So we struggle to put the right words on paper to achieve the same reaction of laughter and tears and maybe an occasional ah hah! that a wink and grimace can create.
Some writers are content to just relate the action of the story and hope for the best. Others of us work hard to get inside our characters and let the story develop through their actions. If an author is extremely good with expressing him/herself, this may flow naturally, but I think there are very few of us who can effortlessly relate story with conflict and emotion and well-developed characters with just the right chosen words to create a book that affects millions of people. Many don’t even know that they need to; others don’t care. Some try, and think they’re successful, but in truth, they’re only reaching an audience with a mindset similar to theirs, so their audiences never grow. Other authors are successful at finding the right story that appeals to many, but grow lazy with experience and quit working to find all the right words to continue reaching more people.
There are so many factors involved in creating a successful story, that it’s almost impossible for any one person to have them all. Some writers are wonderful wordsmiths who can make a reader weep with a few well chosen phrases, but they lack the ability to build a world large enough for a novel or the ability to build a world that large numbers of readers care about.
So, think of your favorite books and tell me why they work for you. Is it the well chosen words and sentences? The characters? The world they live in? The action and pacing of the story that keep you glued to the page? The laughter and tears? Geniuses who can do all these things, like Austen, are a rarity. So who among modern authors come close to that level of storytelling genius? And if these authors aren’t New York Times bestsellers, why do you think they aren’t?