Sunday, January 30, 2011

The point

In life, things often happen by chance, or for reasons we can't determine. They strike suddenly and unpredictably.

We can write about such things. But overall, a story is not a verbatim record of life. It's a distillation of life. It's edited and organized, arranged to illustrate a particular point or capture a certain idea. The lightning bolt from the blue must, in a story, serve some purpose other than relieving the writer's exhausted imagination.

I suppose one could write an experimental piece in which things happen randomly, to make the point that nothing has a point. But in general, each component of a story has to earn its keep. "Why are you telling me this?" the reader says, or rather, "I assume you have a good reason for telling me this."

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