“And then what happened?”

“And then what happened?”

 “And then Jack Sparrow killed the sea monster! The one making the bubbles under the water.”

“How’d he kill it?”

“With his sword.”

 “And then?”

 “That was all. He sailed away in his boat. He had things to do.”

 “That’s it?”

 “Yep.”

 “Good story.”

 “Thanks, Mom.”

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of asking my son to tell me a story at bedtime instead of the other way round. I have to say, for someone who’s still learning to read, he tells a pretty good tale.

But isn’t that the point? People have been telling stories long before we started writing them down. Books are just one way of telling stories. We tell them through film, photography, music, and so many other ways.

The point is the story.

“And then what happened?”

It’s the universal question with infinite answers. When I was studying linguistics, we studied animal communication of many sorts; but while animals may communicate, only human beings have the capacity for creative language. Whale sounds are beautiful and evocative, but there is no epic whale poetry. Bumblebees can communicate the exact location of a pollen source to their hive, but they can’t tell you this funny story about their brother-in-law.

What does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

How much time do you spend on your story? Have you fallen in love with a character or a turn of phrase, but don’t really know what to do with either? Do you have an intricately drawn setting, but aren’t sure exactly what’s going to happen there?

“And then what happened?”

My son asked me this question for years at bedtime, and now I’m the one asking it. I ask him. I ask myself when I sit down to write. I ask my friends when they send me a great story I want to read more of. It’s all about the story.

 When was the last time you read a beautiful piece of writing, but lost interest when the story wasn’t compelling? What will you put up with from a piece of writing if you get hooked on the plot?

Posted in Writing.

2 Comments

  1. I just had to answer this one because I am getting so disenchanted with fanfic stories from most authors. Your questions are exactly what I have been thinking about! My big thing is a decent plot. I will put up with most two dimensional, predictable characters as long as the plot is original, intriguing and moves along without snags and drags (not angst free but rather that the author is progressing the story rather than to fill space or to see themselves write). If the characters are well developed but the plot fails miserably, I just can’t keep an interest.

  2. Thanks for the response, Laura! Just like anything, there are good ff authors, and lazy ones. 🙁 And I agree with you. I find myself putting up with some bad writing sometimes because i get hooked on the story! Makes me rethink how much time I spend on plot development.

    E

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