The Third Level of Craft


Competent, clear, concise writing can be learned. As Wayne Batson indicated, English teachers, and I was one of those most of my adult life, have to believe so or we wouldn’t put in the hours to facilitate others’ literary skills.

But what about the next level—the creative story telling? That’s harder to know. I’m not sure “learned” is the right word. Perhaps “provoked” is better. Again, Wayne said it in his comment to yesterday’s post (I should just have had him do a guest blog today! 😉 ) There are things in life that can provide fertile soil for the germination of a story. Things like childhood play and travel and exposure to good stories and acting and reading, reading, reading.

Without intentionally trying, a person who reads widely and well absorbs the way a story works—the presence of conflict, the building of tension, the progression of suspense and perhaps romance, the unpredictability of it all, the twists and turns and surprises.

I’ve seen writers who have wonderful, creative stories, even though they still have a ways to go in being expert in their handling of the concise telling (or showing, as most writers will want to say). As I’ve said more than once here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, story trumps all. Readers are incredibly forgiving and will often forge ahead through imprecise writing if the story pulls them along.

But there’s another layer of creativity, I think. This is the writer who puts together words and phrases that are musical, powerful, quotable. Some writers would add, beautiful. I will agree, though here is a pitfall, I believe. A writer can become so enraptured with the beauty of the words that he forgets the story they are meant to convey.

Can writing such as this be learned? Again, I say yes, though I also think some writers have a better intuitive grasp of how to work at this level. Those of you who read here regularly may have picked up that I tend toward the analytic side of life—and writing. 😉 I watch the intuitive writers put stories down so beautifully, creatively, and with such apparent ease, it’s hard for me to think I’m doing the same thing as they are.

The difference is, I think, that I think about the difference. 😀

Here’s what I’m actually saying. I doubt if it is possible to learn to be an intuitive writer. That’s an oxymoron, one I don’t think exists. However, I do think there are things writers can do to make their words more musical, powerful, quotable, and even more beautiful. More on that another day.

Published in: on February 29, 2008 at 12:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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