What Did You Learn?

May 30, 2010

General Writing: Everything for Its Purpose

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: — ax20 @ 2:31 pm

I’m going to bring in a word of religion here, but only because it is relevant to what I’m about to say. In Judaism, it is believed that no word in the Torah is wasted. There is a reason for each one and so when there is something strange, or seemingly pointless, it is meant to teach you something. (For example, when you find two separate locations with the exact same words, you are meant to draw a connection between those two places.)

Any good writer looks at the book they are writing in the same way: nothing wasted. Every word, section, scene should be important in some way, whether it moves the plot, reveals something about the character, explains a relationship.

When writing, you have to think, what am I writing about? I’ve recently come across an example at work that particularly exemplifies this need. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, you have to keep the larger goal of your story in mind at all times. The particular story I was looking at is a memoir. Memoirs are tricky because many people writing them think the point of a memoir is to write their life story. I’m telling them right now, they are wrong. They are telling a specific part of their life story.

Sickened, for example, tells the story of a girl who grew up with a mother who had Munchausen’s by Proxy. Every scene relates to this in some way–her mother taking her to the doctor, her getting sick, her dealing with the mental ramifications…Always related to this particular experience.

When you write, you need to think about our purpose and then make sure that every scene moves the story forward. If nothing changes (or the audience does not learn something important), then there is no purpose for the scene and it shouldn’t be included.

Always keep that in mind.

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