Saturday, November 14, 2009

So You Think You Can, Write

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance last night (yes, I can't live without my DVR--I never watch live TV anymore), and something the judges kept saying caught my attention.

The gist was that if the dancers got "into character" and put the appropriate emotion in the performance, they could get away with a few technical errors. But, the opposite was not true. A flawless technical performance lacking emotion or story was not enough to cut it.

I think the same could be applied to writing. Grammatical problems or minor plot issues can be overcome with a great voice and style. It's more about the execution of the story, than its mechanics.

As I was flipping through The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman at BAM today, I was happy to see that he agreed. He basically said that execution was more important than plot for catching an editor's or agent's eye. If they don't get past the execution, they'll never read enough to get the plot anyway.

Not that we can afford to discount grammar or other technical issues--after all, we need to put our best foot forward--but we shouldn't forget that in the end, the story and how we tell it is what will grab the reader.

I guess I'd say, "Always improve your craft, but don't forget your voice."


The Daily Squirrel: soap (what's this?)

The scent of gardenias filled the steamy shower as she worked up a lather on the bar of soap. A familiar peace settled over her as her slick hands washed away the sweat and the lingering odor of cigarettes. Some day soon, she'd finish her degree, and she'd never have to work in a smoky bar again.


Callie James said...

I would have to agree. This is exactly how I read as well. The execution keeps me reading, but the unique plot will bring me back for the next book.

Gwen Hernandez said...

It's kind of a non-sequitar, but I even judge restaurants this way. I want good food, but I also want a nice atmosphere, and decent service. Unless the food is ambrosia, I won't eat in a dump with cranky waitstaff.

I'm sure we could find a lot of parallels if we look hard enough. ;-)

Louisa Cornell said...

A dump with cranky waitstaff? That sounds like my house! Or at least that is what my dogs and cats think!

Great post Gwen and a much needed reminder that the most important thing is to get the story on the page. You can edit it later!

M.V.Freeman said...

Considering I am in the midst of revision and edit hell, I cling to that belief--if you can tell the story irregardless of technical componnents, than you have won a majority of the battle.

I agree with Louisa--its ALL fixable. :-) But dang it, its tough at times.

And would you believe, I don't have a DVR yet?

Great post Gwen!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Louisa: I think my kids would say we have a similar household. =)

Mary: Good luck getting through the story. Revisions are rough. Especially without a DVR to save your shows for when you have time! ;-)

M.V.Freeman said...

I have to admit Gwen, my one addiction is --Castle... LOL

Cari Hislop said...

Why do people bother writing if they're not going to put their heart and soul into it? If I can't connect emotionally with my characters I shouldn't ever bother trying to write. To me writing is like a backwards posession. I have to possess the characters to find out what happens in the story. If I can't connect I can't write (though sometimes I try to force it like the last couple of weeks) and then I end up deleting thousands of words which are good, just not right. I hate that! But hopefully I'll get back on track...though I may end up with a large bruise on my forehead (where I've banged my head on the desk) before I figure out what the characters want to do next. I can see them now all sitting in front of their respective fires reading "The Latest Writer News" all about their inept "Writer"...I suspect afterwards they'll have a good rant...they'd probably trade me in if they could. Luckily for me...they don't have that option.