Sunday, December 7, 2014

If You Build it... 

Remember the movie with Kevin Costner and the "field of dreams" he built in the middle of a corn field?

"If you build it, they will come."

The phrase "they will come" has become American shorthand for entrepreneurial spirit and hope, the fulfillment of one's deepest desire. It's a brilliant conception of words, the core concept of the movie. The words resonate in us, activating the inner hope we all possess that applying ourselves to what we love will bring success.

The key word here is love. No one would write unless some part of them loved it. No one would labor over building a novel or a story if they didn't love the magic that happens when words appear out of nothing, bits and pieces of a story that didn't exist. Characters that do surprising things. Reflections of ourselves we can identify with. All of the separate threads of a narrative that lead the reader into the story.

There are endless articles and books instructing writers in how to write a good story, filled with so many dos and don'ts that it is impossible to remember all of those good ideas. That part of writing is the craft part, the part of learning how to use the tools of language and narrative to construct something someone might want to read. There's only one problem: 

You can build it and no one will come, 
if you can't tell a good story.

Writers are story tellers. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn't matter. If you don't tell a good story, the reader will go away and never come back. All successful books have one thing in common, no matter how well or badly built: they tell an engaging story. 

Do you want to tell a good story? If you do, you have to put passion into your work and believe in your words. You have to forget about all those dos and don'ts and let the characters tell you what the story is really about. You have to listen to them. If you can't hear them, why should anyone else care what they say or do?

Everyone develops their own way of doing it, over time. Build your work with persistence and a belief in your ability. Clear the field in the middle of the corn jungle. Do your research, learn how to use the tools. If you tell a good story, sooner or later they will come.


  1. Great advise! The most important part is the story and it's a great feeling just to get it out. The crafting part comes later.


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