Have you ever come across a narrative which reads like a text book?
I don’t mean facts and figures, I mean it is stern, heavy, and difficult.
You just cannot connect with it.
I’ve been thinking about this recently. Not just in relation to writing stories, but writing music.
You know what I mean right? When whatever it is – song, story, picture – is missing that spark. That X-Factor.
I think I’ve figured out what that spark is. That magic element is that we as writers – or creative people in general – are searching for.
Isn’t it funny how some of our favorite songs are the most simple?
‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, for example.
One of my all time favorite’s at the moment is ‘The Book of Love’ by Peter Gabriel, the chorus of that song is super easy, ‘And I, I love it when you read/sing to me. And you, you can read/sing me anything.’
When you find a story that the emotions are so devastatingly raw that you can’t help but be on the character’s sides and bank on a resolution.
As writers, that is what we seek. Sincerity.
You could script the most complex and awesome storyline ever, with clever plot twists, and narratives, but without a quality that makes it real, that makes it raw, that makes it honest it will always lack.
So how do we find sincerity?
Like a lot of things in writing, for those who achieve sincerity, it often comes by accident. In saying this if you feel as though this is something you struggle with, here are some tips I use for writing stories and songs.
– Figure out what the central emotion/point is. A lot of the time the best way to write something is the most simple way. This is why when I am working on a song or a book I will often bring things down to the ultimate core. If I had to say it in a sentence what would it be? How does a character feel? Explore that thought, fundamentally, what is the emotion at the centre of the story? One you get this on paper – even if littered all over in random phrases – it gives you an anchor point. I once wrote this song about being overwhelmed with life, it was an item for church and was sung from the perspective of how God must feel when we have completely exhausted ourselves with our pursuits. The key line of the chorus was ‘Are you done running? You’re looking tired.’ To this day it is one of my most favourite songs.
– Identify the ‘take away’. I often tell my students this. Figure out what you want people to feel when experiencing your work. This is different to the above point because it deals solely with the reader or audience. What central emotion are you planning for them to experience? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Figure it out and then structure absolutely everything around facilitating that emotion. As writers we are not just people who provide an experience, we facilitate it through words and language techniques. Of course you have to be tactful in achieving your results.
– Get yourself on board. As an author sometimes we can come up with an excellent idea, but we go through the motions and slip around not 100% committed to the concept we’re working on. To write in a way which is sincere you absolutely have to be on board all the time. For me music is a huge help for this. I construct playlists around certain books and use that as a launching point it I am not 100% in the zone. Feel for your characters. Make it genuine, don’t just script something that you’ve already heard, seen or read
So those are some of my tips to find that thing that we are all searching for with our writing.