I ended my post last month with the fact that what readers are wired to respond to in a story – to wit: the protagonist’s escalating internal struggle — is not what writers have been taught to focus on. I was reminded of this recently when reading Jason Sheehan’s review of Lauren Groff’s literary bestseller, Fates and Furies on NPR’s Morning Edition website. By way of praising the book Sheehan called it . . .
“. . . a master class in best lines; a shining, rare example of that most unforgiving and brutal writer’s advice: All you have to do is write the best sentence you’ve ever written. Then 10,000 more of the best. Then find a way to string them together into the story of something.” (italics his)
When I read that, I had to take several deep cleansing breaths, lest my head explode and make a big mess all over the place. Are you kidding me? So it’s about learning to write the “best lines”? That’s the skill writers need to develop first and foremost? THEN they “find a way to string them together into “the story of something”? How could you even do that? The implication, of course, is that once you learn to write 10K pretty sentences, the story will somehow magically appear. That is if you have the rare thing that Groff has. In other words, talent. Wrong, wrong, wrong! [Read more…]