In Austin, Texas, it gets hot in the summer. You can fry an egg on the pavement. You can cook a whole five-course meal. If you stand in one place too long, you start smoking. Hot.
How do you get that heat in writing? Everything has to be working in your writing and that includes the oft maligned element, story.
Story isn’t easy. People realize it’s hard to write well, to use language well. It’s hard to develop character, create an interesting setting, etc.. But story doesn’t really get its due. It lives in the worst fictional neighborhood and isn’t invited to the fictional elements’ parties. Its job is undesirable. It’s the garbage collector of fiction.
Story is, in fact, seriously undervalued, particularly in MFA programs (at least that was my experience and seems to be the experience of many others). A lot of writers who write beautifully fail miserably because they have no story to tell or what faint story they do have to tell isn’t told well. They expect us to read their work because they write pretty sentences.
I’m here to tell you—pretty sentences aren’t enough( even though I love beautiful writing). You need all the elements of fiction, including story, to be working. I need them anyway—I need all the help I can get.