Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Good Book= Idea + Storytelling

Like everyone, I think I have the formula for a good book.  No, it isn't about the number of chapters you write or some formulaic means of crafting characters.  It's really simple, and it applies to all books - combine a great idea with great storytelling skills.

"You asshole," you say.  "That's pretty friggin' obvious."

One would think so.  Unfortunately, lots of writers forget this simple way to create a good book.  The first place many fail is on the idea.  If you've watched any movies coming out of Hollywood recently, you know there is a dearth of ideas out there.  And it's not just screenwriters that suffer from this - many "regular" writers suffer this as well.  It's hard to recall the number of repackaged, fan-fiction ideas I've seen passed off as original work.

I get it - those ideas are tempting because they've already proven themselves.  Many writers feel they only need to alter a little of the original, and *poof* people will flock to them the same way you flock to your mother's grilled cheese sandwich...it's comforting and has stood the test of time.  However, when I'm looking for a new work, I want something I haven't seen before.  Why would I want to read the same basic story time after time?  I've already done that.

That said, there are many writers out there who've developed lots of good ideas.  When I get into an idea session with a group of people, I find my faith in the creative juices is always renewed.  But...that brings up the second reason many can't create a good book - they can't tell a story to save their life.

The world's greatest idea for a story is useless if you can't convey it in a meaningful way to your audience.  If you, um, you know, like kind of stumble and such, or wouldn't tell story that be a good thing...no one will want to read it.  You may as well simply hand them a dictionary and hope they find the right words.

Numerous writers I know are either WAY OVER THE TOP!!!! on how they convey an idea, or they give out so so so so so so so much detail that the story has no pace beyond it.  Yes, the other extreme exists, where a writer gives too little, but I've found that the two examples above account for over 90% of the failures I've read.  You have to let your audience come to you, and you can't try and DAZZLE and WOW them with every sentence.  Remember, the best lovers don't blow their wad in the first three minutes.

Now all you have to do is string those two parts together - original idea and good storytelling ability - and you're halfway there.  I say halfway because while you must write a good book in order to interest your audience, if you can't convince people to read it, you're just as bad off...but that's a discussion for another time.

No comments:

Post a Comment