Yes, I honestly think it’s hard to get both right because the need to follow a “story arc” can truly bog us down.
I have a confession to make: I have read very little over the last few years. Just putting that into writing makes me judge myself. Does that make me one of those writers who doesn’t read? I used to read piles of books a year but then something happened and I stopped. I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside table that have been dog-eared at various stages – 10 pages in, 5 pages, some 30-odd, but finishing has been a real drama. Here’s what’s in the pile:
Every time I make time to pick one up, I’m left feeling terribly ho-hum. The story moves along, but there is no depth to the writing, no real beauty.
Recently I was sent a book by a friend who is a big reader, and will only read books that are recommended to her, so I was happy to take her recommendation. She isn’t the biggest fan of modern fiction, so I was interested to know why this book, this writer.
“My mom introduced me to William Maxwell. I’m not extra fond of modern writers and modern fiction, but he was one who warmed me up to the genre. I remember you and I talked about the preponderance of plot in so much modern fiction. Well, his stories are much more character-oriented. I never had experienced what I thought was ‘tone’ before I read his works. Well, I’m sure I did, but his works are startlingly pure in this regard, I think. I’ve read about 6 of his works and would read them again”
I read books like I watch TV or movies – in the moment. In while it’s in then, soon after, it’s gone and I’m left only with a feeling. I don’t remember the inciting incident or the plot. I do remember the language, the characters and their interactions. I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude three times, and know it’s my favourite book but can’t remember what it’s about.
Then over the last few years, I’ve been reading books for story, plot, arcs and action, and I think it’s killed my love of reading and, to some degree, writing.
What happens to a writer who doesn’t write books that are plot heavy? We self publish, that’s what!