Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tell Me Why

I've mentioned in past posts that I'm reading Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. (Yeah, still. I'm slow with non-fiction.) In it he poses some great questions, and I'd like to share them with you. They're important for any fiction writer to consider.

Why tell your story?

What does your story offer? What would one gain by reading your book?

Conversely, what would happen if you didn't write the book?

Maass says the answers to these questions may go a long way in telling us if we're on the right path with our writing. And if you can't answer them at all... well then, you may need some clearer direction.

How would you answer these questions? Feel free to do so in the comments for this post, or just mull them over on your own.

24 comments:

Cindy said...

These are good questions. Before I became a Christian, I would write books for entertainment value. There were a few here and there that I wrote because I wanted to share a bigger message but mostly I just wanted people to enjoy what I write. And now, I still want people to enjoy what I write, but I want them to get something more from it. I want God to use me to deliver a message that will reach someone on a deeper level. And if that person is also entertained by something I wrote and simply enjoys themselves, then it's that much better. Thanks for the questions!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Such great food for thought. Now that my first book is published, it seems that it resonates with people more than I expected a regency genre category romance novel to resonate. I wrote it for entertainment value only, since I love them to pieces--but it turned out to be something a bit more than that. Who knew?

Sharla said...

1) Because once it's in me to tell, I can't stand not to tell it! Sometimes once it's down, I decide no one else needs to be bothered with it (lol) but other times it's like a little kid jumping up and down going "pick me! pick me!"

2) Entertainment. Escape. And hopefully the chance to laugh.

3) I haven't tried it yet. But I'm afraid that if I don't write something that I'm passionate about, I might self-implode.

Janna Qualman said...

Cindy - You've got a handle on your answers, and that's great. I agree both - entertainment and a message - are something to strive for.

Heidi - You know, I found that in my first novel, too. (Considered by Avalon but turned down and, for now, trunked.) I'd written it with something particular in mind, and found things weaved into it - subconsciously - that made it a little more.

Sharla - Awesome! And I so agree with #1.

thedomesticfringe said...

Good questions. A lot to think about...

-FringeGirl

thedomesticfringe said...

Good questions. A lot to think about...

-FringeGirl

Terri Tiffany said...

I love these kind of questions. I want to write so that people either feel something and to have a take away they will remember for at least a little while!

Melissa Marsh said...

Great questions, great book. :-)

I'm writing this story to shed light on a little known facet of World War II - how those who suffered from PTSD were treated and not understood very well(even by themselves).

Joanne said...

Great questions. The more we get inside our work, looking at it from all angles like these mentioned here, the more true to the art we become.

Barbara said...

Janna- I've tagged you, so please drop by and see.

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

These are great questions. I'm not sure i have totally clear answers on them all, but its all inside somewhere! Thanks for sharing. I have this book, but I'm still working through it too!

Janna Qualman said...

FringeGirl - My post was so good, you commented twice! ;)

Terri - That's so important to me - maybe all of us... making our readers feel something deep. Great!

Melissa - I think that's awesome. I've heard a lot about this of late; that people so misunderstood our vets, it caused them to go unnoticed and neglected. So sad.

Joanne - Great wordage!

Barbara - Yay! Thanks.

Heidi - Mine are a bit unclear, too, but as I think on them more and more, it all comes about with meaning.

Jessica said...

What would happen if I didn't write the book. I'd have to go work at a bank when my kids go to kindergarten. LOL
Actually, I think now that I've discovered writing fiction, I won't ever stop. The trick is to find a way to get paid to do it.
I write the stories because the characters are in my head, because I'm curious as to what they'll do, but also because if someone actually reads my manuscript, I hope they'll be changed by something it, some spiritual truth or redemptive meaning in the story.
Darn. What's the other question? LOL
Thanks for posting these questions. You're saving me one more non-fiction book that I'll never read ('cause I have three and haven't gotten past the first chapters)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Janna, reading the Maass book and doing the workbook will slow down your targeted "finish" date, but it will be SO worth it. I recently did both, and even though ms revisions are going ever so slowly, I know I'll have a better book when the smoke clears. And you will too!

Janna Qualman said...

Jessica - I'm with you; I look forward to this being my "full-time job" when both mine are in school. :)

Angie - Is the workbook separate? *runs to flip through book*

Turkey Lurkey said...

1) - I've got a scene in my head and I need to know how it got there and where it goes from there. Then I sit back, type, and enjoy the ride.

2) - Maybe someone else wants to escape to the same place.

3) - Less trees are cut down to make my book.

Melanie Avila said...

Great questions!

Why tell your story? Because I feel I've stumbled upon a way of life that most Americans are unaware of, and I want to share it with them.

What does your story offer? What would one gain by reading your book? See above. :) I've learned details through my research that surprised me, and I think my book will give readers a different perspective on what they view as the lower society.

Conversely, what would happen if you didn't write the book? Well, I was recently made aware of a book coming out (by an established author) that sounds quite similar to mine, so I guess not much would happen. Someone else will tell the story, but it won't be my take on it.

Amy Mullis said...

I've heard lots of good stuff about that book. I think I'll have hubby read it. I'd like him to finish his blockbuster novel, so I can stay home and do whatever it is I do.

Janna Qualman said...

Turk - Trees, indeed. ;)

Melanie - Definitely!

Amy - You make people laugh, and therefore love you. That's what you do.

colbymarshall said...

If I didn't tell my story, those ideas would just bounce around in my head forever and drive me nuts ;-)

Janna Qualman said...

Colby - Best get them out, then! :)

ralfast said...

This one I'll dedicate a blogpost too. It deserves it.

Janna Qualman said...

Rafael - Awesome! I'll keep my eyes open for it.

ralfast said...

Well I just posted my answers on my blog. http://ralfast.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/ill-tell-you-whyi-write/