Thursday, July 23, 2009

Story is king---or is it?

If you’ve researched writing for publication for any length of time you've heard it said or read it over and over again. It’s all about the story. Not you. Not your agenda or cramming your belief system down the reader’s throat.

I read an online interview yesterday at Writers Digest with Jerry Jenkins and Stephen King. Since I believe there is a thing or two—or five thousand—I could learn from these two prolific writers, I absorbed every word.

In case you don’t know, I write Christian fiction. My mission for my writing ministry is to entertain, edify, and inspire readers through my pen. When asked, I always tell people that I am blessed to be in a position to do what I love while sharing my faith with others. I’m a storyteller, but I’m also a Christian so it’s only natural that I incorporate who I am into my writing. The trick is not to bore, annoy, or alienate readers with who you are. Frankly, the reader doesn’t care. They want a good story, and you better give them one.

Jerry Jenkins put it this way: “…the singular challenge I had was to allow the message to come through without letting it overwhelm the fiction. The story has to be paramount. Readers must fall in love with the characters and want to keep turning the pages. The minute your novel starts to read like a sermon, end of story.”

Stephen King had this to say: “The old Robert (Psycho) Bloch witticism applies here: “Thou shalt not sell thy book for a plot of message.” Jerry said it, and I’ll double down: Story comes first. But—and I think Jerry will agree with this, too—what you write ought to be about something you care about. Why else would you spend all that time and expend all that effort?”

Balance, dear writer, balance. Don’t be afraid to tell your story in your own unique way, but keep in mind it’s all about the story. Don’t intrude. Create characters you care about. Put them into situations that matter to you. Let your passion come through to the reader, but remember that ultimately, the only thing that matters is story.

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