Archive for December, 2009

Literary Stories Must Be Significant Article About Writing Better

Friday, December 4th, 2009
William H. Coles

Great literary stories have a purpose for being written. They say something and they say it well. Fiction is the best way to achieve this. It allows story development unhindered by descriptions of a set reality and provides unlimited choices in character motivations and actions that support the purpose and momentum of the story. Significance is not achieved when the fiction is loosely conceived.

The author’s conscious will has to be in control of the story creation, and not simply left to ideas that might bubble up from the unconscious or are discovered in the description of a life experience where the significance is tagged on late in the writing, like a stamp on a letter. Significance comes from planned story happening, character change to a new way of thinking and understanding (enlightenment about the human condition), and reader enlightenment, which when different from the character’s enlightenment is the source for important ironies.

Significance is often directly related to an emotional experience for a reader. Reader emotions vary from story to story in intensity and type (joy, fear, sympathy, love, anger, et cetera). Emotions are best evoked by total engagement in the fictional dream that requires inclusion of the reader in the story rather than simply treating the reader as a listener. This means showing why and how in scene or dramatic narrative and not simple describing real or imagined events or thoughts.

In essence, a story will never be significant when a reader finishes and has no understanding why the story was written and can’t remember characters and or what the story was about. A writer must master not only craft of interesting dramatic prose but the entangled process of purposeful storytelling.


From the essay "How Literary Stories Go Wrong" by William H. Coles


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