Friday, November 16, 2012

So What Does This Mean?

“The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning.

The former is not always apparent, while the latter always has to be, before the end.” 
― Vera Nazarian 

Our final author quote for the week comes from a writer who is known for fantasy and science fiction works, both novels and short stories. The idea that a story must have meaning can be expanded into nonfiction works, as well. If there is no meaning to what we write, what's it all about?

In other words, be sure there is a why I wrote this aspect to everything you write. What is it that you're attempting to show the reader? Essays, including personal essays, should include some universal truth. Even if it is only one line, it can be the entire reason for the rest of the essay. It's why you wrote it.

After you're finished with a story, a nonfiction essay or memoir piece, read it over again and ask yourself what is the meaning, what did you try to portray to the reader. If you can't find it, your reader certainly won't either. And I am not suggesting that there be a line in the story that says I wrote this because.... Definitely not. It needs to be there for the reader to find. We might consider the meaning of what is written as the hidden treasure--something not to stay buried but to be found and savored by the reader.

I've noted many times when someone offers a critique in my online critique group, they will ask why the writer wrote the piece. They want to know what the meaning is, especially if it is not obvious. Sometimes the meaning of what we write is very clear, while others remain a bit too deeply entrenched. A good writer will make sure the reader knows the meaning and a good reader will be able to find it.

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