All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Presentation and the Point

There is one thing that kind of feels like cheating when I type up these posts. Because I have a designated space, an established theme, and so on, I have the liberty of starting an entry about my day, something I thought about, how tired I am, and so forth. I can wind my way toward the main subject at a leisurely pace because everyone reading this post knows I will get there at some point. That is a nice style of conversational writing, but not a good lesson to teach writers.

When someone picks up a short story, an essay, or some other random piece of work, they most likely will not know what it's about. Hopefully the title tells them something about what the piece holds for them, but often they are walking in blind. This is where we need to quickly establish the presentation of the story. Is it meant to entertain, enlighten, offend, inform, or all of the above? Is it adventure, horror, light-hearted fare, suspense, or something else? We need to start off with something that gives the reader a frame of reference, and let it build from there.

This doesn't have to be an obvious set-up, but something should be there to start narrowing down the possibilities. Consider this opener: "Officer Harper dropped onto the couch and sighed in exhaustion. The woman's body in the kitchen could wait until he had his morning coffee." From the get-go, we now have a story involving crime, a law-enforcement perspective, and a very somber mood overall. The presentation is complete, and the reader immediately makes the call about whether they will read further. The writer's job is to decide how they want the reader to approach the story. And yes, a good writer can do this as a way of throwing in a curveball later on (like Officer Harper encounters the ghost of the dead woman in the kitchen), but that's for another post.

Now this adventure in writing gets us moving toward the point - the crescendo of the story where the important parts fit together. While this is standard story-writing process, we can use our presentation to start planting seeds to what the point actually is. Following from the opening lines to our hypothetical story, if our point is to unveil the woman's killer at the end, this is fine; that could be a good story. However, the presentation of this as a crime-solving story with a little mystery offers different opportunities. For example, the dead woman in the kitchen has no name. Should we give her a name in the opening? Or, what if her name was actually... Mrs. Harper, the cop's wife! Depending on when we reveal that can change the entire movement of the story. Or what if Officer Harper is actually the killer? Our opening sentences now create a very disturbing impression of him once his crime is revealed.

They say you don't know the first line of your story until you've written the last line. Whether they are right or not isn't my concern. I just know that depending on how you want the story to end, you should start setting that up at the very beginning, and slowly, steadily, set up the reader throughout the piece. Which means you probably should get to the point faster than I do in these blog posts. My apologies.                 

No comments:

Post a Comment