Truth + Beauty = A Story Worth Reading

For me, an artful story consists of truth plus beauty plus…?

That’s it, really. Everything else should serve the truth and beauty of the stories we’re trying to tell. That’s not to say that all that craft we study and slave over isn’t important; it is.

But that stuff is nourishment. The rules are just first aid. Plot and structure provide clothing and shelter. Style is the result of our sitting down and transcribing truth and beauty, not the other way around. We cannot force it by trying to be clever or cute.

“Style is doomed, to the exact extent it implies a conscious effort to shape the language,” says Steve Almond. “There’s a simple reason for this: your artistic unconscious is about ten times more powerful as an imaginative tool than your conscious mind. But it only comes out to play when you forget yourself and focus on your people…Style, in other words, is the residue produced by the dogged pursuit of truth.”

We don’t get to create truth or beauty. They are ours to observe and enjoy. We get to borrow them, arrange them in new or interesting ways. On our best days, our experiments with light and shadow may reveal some new facet of truth or peel back the curtain to reveal some previously hidden beauty. But we’re not really creating anything new under the sun.

God provides the raw material. We simply curate.

So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Truth + Beauty = A Story Worth Reading

  1. Agree, sort of. I said all the way back in the FIF days that story trumps all, and I still believe it. But a great story will be one with beauty and truth. On the other hand, I think it’s possible to write something that is beautiful and truthful but not a good story. I mean, poetry is that. A novel should not be an extended poem. It’s more.

  2. Hey Becky, great to “see” you again online. It’s been too long (my fault, not everyone else’s!).

    Great distinction on poetry vs. novel-type storytelling. I don’t disagree at all. My thoughts in the post regarding “story” were probably more on a macro level…thinking in terms of music, visual arts, prose, poetry, and other art forms as the vehicle for telling our stories.

    To your point, however, I’ve written WAY too many paragraphs that were guilty of poetic language but didn’t move the story forward. I’m trying to not do that this time around. We’ll see how it goes…

    • Back at you, Mike. šŸ˜€ I saw your comments at Mike Duran’s site and was happy to hear you’re back in at writing. You’re a real talent.

      I guess I had story on the brain since I just posted about it at Spec Faith. I suppose literary fiction gets blamed most for forgetting story, but I honestly think fantasy or science fiction can lose story in the details of the world. It happens to be something I’ve noticed of late in my reading. And now I think we’re losing it in our effort to improve our writing. Go figure.


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