It's the Story, Stupid


Back in the day, when Bill Clinton was first running for Prez, his campaign staffers kept their focus with the motto: "It's the economy, stupid." Writers would do well to do winnow down the locust-like swarm of important-stuff-to-keep-in-mind to a single mantra that keeps what's personally important in the forefront. Mine is "It's All About the Storytelling."

Craft is really important to me, as are (to a lesser extent) market-savvy, business sense, and intelligent networking. But every one of these can be trumped by story, and I can think of a number of gut-level, emotionally-engaging storytellers who have been hugely successful in spite of significant deficits in any or all of the other areas I've mentioned. Work by the story-rich but craft-poor tends to exasperate reviewers and confound fellow writers, but it connects with readers by the hundreds of thousands.

Rather than stick my nose up at these vastly-popular storytellers, I read their work when I can. I try to figure out what these authors have that really works. Often enough the answer is a story the excites the imagination. As much as I enjoy prettying up the story with rich landscaping and clever wordplay, if the story doesn't come first, this gets to be an exercise in self-gratification.

Because whether it's beautifully written or crudely told around the water cooler, it's story that connects the teller to the audience. And in the end, isn't that what this work is all about?

Comments

jo leigh said…
Thanks, I needed that. :)
Glad you could stop by, Jo Leigh! And thanks for the addendum, Joni.