When I talk to newer writers in particular, but sometimes even more experienced ones, the idea of writing seems to always focus on the words. By that I mean that they worry about their grammar and punctuation, or whether they have the right vocabulary, or have meticulously chosen the exact perfect word in the exact right moment.
All of these things are fine to think about, and they are important in their own self-contained kind of way.
But they are not the heart of what makes a good writer. Not to me, anyway.
These things are elements mostly of language craft, and (assuming the new writer has at least a base competence ) we’re really talking at best about the essence of a writer’s style. But I think writing is not really about style. Of course, it’s great if you have it. Generally. Or, maybe it’s better said that anyone who writes for any real time is going to wind up with one. Your voice comes partially out of whatever style you can manage to incorporate into your work (he says, admittedly knowing he’s probably wrong there–I’ve yet to meet the person who can really tell me what “voice” is beyond the idea that we know it when we see/hear it).
But, again, these, to me, are not writing. Style is style. It is not writing. And, yet, new writers tend not to ask about anything beyond these things. I suppose it’s because the act of writing is so … well … language-centric. And established writers often focus on them because when you try to focus on the other stuff that makes writers become writers, the conversation starts to get really hard and somewhat metaphysical.
But writing, beyond that base competence, is not really about the specific words you use. It is not about being grammatically correct. It’s not about being stylistically brilliant. Writing, at its base, is about story. Writing is about purpose, and about connection. At the end of the day, the words are not meaningful except as a base media by which to convey images and ideas that create story.
I’m thinking about this tonight as a result of watching some stories recently passed to me in an e-mail from a one-time co-worker (hi, Suki!). They each moved me deeply. You should watch them. I received the third first, and then went back and watched the other two. Though the storyteller, Carlos Lascano, writes that they are “a sort of aesthetic trilogy,” I don’t think it matters which order you watch them in. So I will post them here in the order I saw them.
But watch them. See story play out. If you are like me you will love each of them because they are beautifully crafted, because they say something. They have protagonists with hopes and dreams and personal goals who are struggling against antagonists. They have try/fail cycles, and they have successes and failures. And not a one uses a single word.
Story 1: Lila (2014)
Story 2: A Short Love Story in Stop Motion (2008)
Story 3: A Shadow of Blue (2011)