Many a time have I wondered what’s at the core of writing. I mean, what are the pre-requirements for a good story to see the light. If I was to deconstruct the foundation of any compelling piece of written material from an author’s standpoint, I’d certainly quote the following building blocks:
Having something to write about: this means, essentially, that the author possesses a gut feeling that a story is worth the while. Whether it is coming from his own or someone else’s real experience, or –instead– it is a product of the darkest dungeon within his imagination; it’s all about an inner belief that it is likely to have an impact, that it will reach out to the audience.
Having a desire to let it out: writing stuff is too personal. It means sharing, letting go and, inevitably, showing bits and pieces (however insignificant or not) off the author. And this could be painful. Frequently, no matter how good the nature of the tale, an author is simply not yet ready to expose that bit of his inner self. In this respect I have a strong opinion: if the time is not right, then the creator should leave it aside, perhaps as a draft or a sheer reflection, until the green light shows. Of course: it could well be that it never does. Such is life.
Last, but not least: finding a suitable way to drive storytelling. This third item is all about gathering the ability to put down in words your creation. Some authors are methodical to the bone: they generate schemas, plots, guidelines (map-like writers); while others play it by ear and trust their sixth sense (compass-like writers). These paradigms represent opposite sides of the pendulum –my best guess is that most fall within an Aristotelian golden mean–.
Now then, the above are –to put it in the form of a mathematical statement–necessary, but not sufficient. And, to make things a trifle more complicated, the relative weight thereof is unclear and varying. Some stories are beautifully written, but hardly bearable (in simplistic terms: a bore!). Frequently, an author’s second thoughts on the piece come across only too often –in the form of self-censorship, restrain or otherwise– generating an overall look of confusion around the work. And again, at times, the lack of mastery in the execution of a piece is a show-killer, thus spoiling a potential good read.
But take heart: when the blend is good the result is a many splendid thing called literature. And for most authors it is great to see their creature evolve and generate never ending echoes in each reader; giving way to multiple interpretations and hidden reflections that await to be found in between the lines.
So, if you’re ever into writing, my humble advice is for you to review how many of the three above you are counting upon prior to starting.
And –needless to say– watch out for stories: some of them grow fangs.