MOO on Story

Me Own Opinion

What is that surge of vindication we feel when we accidentally happen upon an editorial that coincides with our own opinion, never mind the fundamental truth expressed?  Must we see an axiom published before the final mental lock is thrown against all who would debate  the issue?  But then again, what’s wrong with a good debate?

In the world of print many lies have been told, so many that we should take each piece with a grain of doubt to ravel away the pulp edges of everything we read.  Yet, we still celebrate when we find an article that we can hold aloft as if we have proof positive—See!  Here it is.  In black and white.  So there.…

While perusing the August issue of The Writer magazine, I happened across this article, ‘5 keys to keep Readers Reading,’ (sic) by Laura Miller.

‘Key No. 3:  The components of a novel that readers care about the most are, in order: story, character, theme, atmosphere/setting….’


(What follows is MOO, and should not be confused with the above mentioned article.) Let me elucidate on Key 3  because sometimes things fly by us so fast that we don’t see them.  Number One on the List of Importance: story, story, story, excitement, action, event, happening.

Analogy: The story is the engine.  Without the engine the theme or message will not reach its destination.  Characters, no matter how charismatic, can NOT propel an inert plot.

If then…this fact is so obvious, where do most writers go wrong?  I think the answer is three-fold.

  1. Betting the bank on Characters:  Writing character is easy, fun and effortless.  However, writing events, location, history and acquiring an authentic voice requires work and research.  Unfortunately, for those of us who love characters, a story based on characters alone is….forgettable.
  1. Bad Imitation:  After reading a great novel, we may have fallen in love with the characters, and we want to emulate that feeling in our own writing.  We forget that when we opened to Chapter One, we were not yet in love with anybody.  We forget what drew us to the story in the first place, namely curiosity about life:  What’s it like to be a migrant worker, ‘Of Mice and Men.’  What happens on a long sea voyage with a crazy captain, ‘Moby Dick.’  How do the rich react in life’s predicaments, ‘The Great Gatsby.’  What are the risks of creating a monster, ‘Frankenstein.’  What really happened on the mountain, ‘Into Thin Air.’  What happens if we go back in time and change things, ‘The Time Machine.’
  1. Preaching:  Some of us are so tuned into our theme/message/sermon that we lose track of what the reader wants.  Parable over lecture every time.   Remember that feeling that you have when someone begins to lecture you:  Gripes, where’s the nearest exit out of here. 

 Author’s Note:  Some of you, who are kind enough to comment, may have noticed that I have turned off the comment section.  This is not because I did not enjoy your comments.  Of late, my interest in blogging has flagged a little–not sure what’s causing that–perhaps…  Oh, well, it doesn’t matter why.  Anyway, I thought I might return to my original idea of using the blog as a journal or notebook of miscellaneous things that otherwise get lost in the shuffle.  Also, I thought I’d break the cycle of posting, waiting for comments, replying to comments, repaying comments with witty remarks instead of making the usual  fluff-fluff, staring at the Hits and wasting time on trying to be pop-pop-popular with no foreseeable success, etc.  (It does remind me of the spin cycle on a washing machine.)  I have left the Like Button and Rating system up.  In some ways this might be easier.  If no one uses them, I’ll assume that I’m talking to myself.  I’m use to that, and, if  I conclude that I am engaging in the art of soliloqu-zology, my posts may turn into indecipherable notes.   Of course, you don’t have to Like everything that I write.  I believe one star and two star ratings are negatives.  Feel free to use them; I’d be intrigued. 🙂  For the precious few who still want to write, you’ve got my email.