A local client of mine, another baseball aficionado and HSP (highly sensitive person) who came to cheer on my softball team last night, brought with him to our last editing meeting a copy of Good Prose, by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. He wanted to read portions of it aloud to me. Who doesn’t love to be read aloud to over a milkshake?
After our meeting, we walked straight over to the bookstore and I ordered my copy. I’m about to dive into a full five weeks of final revisions (I mean it this time, this is IT!) on my novel, Outta Here!, after having received some “just right” insight two weeks ago. Funny how you can go through years of workshopping a piece or a manuscript, how other agents you’ve queried can suggest smart things to you, but then one day, one agent says one thing… and it fully clicks.
I hope this bit from Good Prose will be just what the doctor ordered for someone somewhere today:
“It is a misleading truism that drama comes form conflict. Conflict in stories is generally understood as an external contest between good guys and bad guys. But to say that Hamlet depicts the conflict between a prince and usurper king is (obviously) to oversimplify that rich, mysterious drama, indeed to misunderstand it completely. The most important conflict often happens within a character, or within the narrator. The story begins with an inscrutable character and ends with a person the author and reader understand better than before, a series of events that yields, however quietly, a dramatic truth. One might call this kind of story a narrative of revelation.
… Revelation, someone’s learning something, is what transforms event into story. Without revelation, a story of high excitement leaves us asking, “Is that all?”
… For a story to have a chance to live, it is essential only that there be something important at stake, a problem that confronts the characters or confronts the reader in trying to understand them. The unfolding of the problem and its resolution are the real payoff. A car chase is not required.”
Here’s to everyone working on those car chase-less no-murdering stories this week. Here’s to you and yours learning something.
*And hell, here’s to anyone working on a story as character-rich as the most violent show I’ve ever been able to tolerate (see HSP, Item #6, scary/violent things).