Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Behind the Curtain

I recall a convesation I had with a buddy on the value of knowing how a story works.

He said he didn't want to know because it would destroy the experience for him.

I held that knowing heightens the experience for me, from a writer's perspective.

What do I mean?

As writers I believe after we learn the basics of the craft, we develop a desire to find out how other writers demonstrate it. How do they draw the reader into the pages of their novels and keep them riveted for 300+ pages? What makes their stories so interesting that readers buy their next book or their tenth book?

Answering those questions helps us develop and hone our craft, our technique. It makes us better writers. It allows us to see how our colleagues play with or break the "rules." When, for example, others point to Elmore Leonard as the "king of dialogue," we study him to learn why, and how we can incorporate that into our writing.

Maybe knowing all that can be a turn-off to readers. "I don't want to analyze a novel," they say. "I just want to read it to be entertained."

Maybe for them, that's fine.

And sometimes, we writers also just want to read to be entertained.

But that part of us that analyzes is always working, even if it's unobtrusively, peeking out just behind that curtain.

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