A couple of weeks back, I threatened to post on “whether “story” is greater than the sum of its constituent “craft” parts…” in the near future.
Today is that day.
For me, story is the thing, before which all other aspects of the writing life must bow down—including me, when I’m writing, i.e. the integrity of the story is paramount (‘in my book’—ha!)
In my ‘umble view, I feel that one can labour over plot and subtext, character development, structure and pacing, beginnings and endings—yet still not have a story worth reading at the end of it.
Conversely, deficiencies in any one of those constituent areas can be overlooked if the storytelling rocks, i.e. as a reader you’re so absorbed in the tale being told you don’t notice flaws of craft. (Think of all those books that are bestsellers but someone will tell you that they are terribly written—by which they mean crafted—either in whole or in part.
“…the story boat is a magic one. It knows its course. The job of the person at the the helm is to help it to find its own way to wherever it’s going.”
Again, the implication is that “story” is something greater than the component parts of “craft.” I would say that Story is the forest—Edelman’s rainforest, perhaps,“teeming with growth, decay, competition, diversity and selection”—whereas the various aspects of craft comprise the individual trees within it.
As writers, practicing craft can definitely help us tell our stories better, but if we focus too much on the constituent parts, I believe we risk missing the big picture: we can’t see the overall forest because we have our noses pressed slap bang up against the single tree trunk immediately in front of us.
And the very best way to find practice storytelling and thereby find our rainforest? Why, we must write of course—write, and write, and write. Then write some more. And when we’re not writing we must read, because to tell story well ourselves, we must absorb it and understand its nuances—and that means reading other writers, because otherwise we’re writing in the dark. And as UK poet, Peter Sansom, rightly points out: “… in the dark, you can’t even read yourself properly.”