Time for another writerly quote. I wrote a post recently on Literary fiction versus Pop Fiction, and the issue I have with “literary” folks who put down widely read works, so this quote struck home with some things I’ve been thinking about lately:
I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. – Edgar Rice Burroughs
Burroughs’s Tarzan and John Carter stories are still some of the most beloved stories ever written. And I love how he puts this. Not only does he admit he knew nothing (Yeah right, Edgar!), he attributes his success to accepting this fact and instead focusing on telling a good story.
Because that is the point, isn’t it? To tell a good story.
I am not saying it is not helpful to try to learn about writing and prose and using good grammar. But you can have profound knowledge about how language works, and you can even write gorgeous prose, but it still not be about anything at all.
You can write well, and still be a crappy storyteller.
Burroughs may not have been the most profound writer, but he could write a gosh-darn entertaining story!
The writing helps, but in my mind, the story is what matters. Learn what makes a really good story good. What makes it gripping or interesting? In other words, why should people care enough to read it?
Come up with something interesting. And write it entertainingly.
I can’t speak for everyone, and the reasons why they read books. But I read to be entertained, largely. I read to be wrapped up in a story, to feel like I am experiencing the story as the main characters, to be left wondering what will happen and how, to care so much about the characters that I must reach the end. That is entertainment, and it is the effect I would much rather master, over gushing prose. Maybe I’ll learn a little of that someday, but for now, I am going to work on becoming a better storyteller.