This past week, literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted an article on her blog called “Fiction Writing: Craft and Story.”
In this instructive piece, Rachelle distinguishes between these two elements, saying that craft refers to the mechanics of writing fiction, and story is the essence. Here’s the key paragraph:
- Story refers to the page-turning factor: how compelling is your story, how unique or original, does it connect with the reader, is there that certain spark that makes it jump off the page? Is it sufficiently suspenseful or romantic? Is the author’s voice distinct and compelling? It’s much harder to quantify than craft, and harder to teach.
Interestingly, I had just recently read an excellent explanation of voice, written by Donald Maass in his book The Fire in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books). Here’s the quote, which I also left in a comment to Rachelle’s post:
Not all beautifully written novels have a voice, or much of one. Potboiler plots may be exciting, but also may have little flavor. It is when the words on the page demand that I, the reader, take notice that I begin to hear the author’s voice. It isn’t the words alone that do that, I find, but rather the outlook, opinions, details, delivery, and original perspectives that an author brings to his tale.
Above all, a singular voice is not a lucky accident; it comes from a storyteller’s commitment not just to tell a terrific story but to tell it in a way that is wholly his. (pp. 129-130, emphasis mine)
I’m still digesting this powerful statement and trying to work through the implications for my writing. That’s a self-editing exercise I highly recommend.