If you had to choose one writing quality, which would dominate: the gift of style or storytelling? I hear you guys snickering in the background. “Well, I would prefer both.” And I say, “Reread the first part of that question then get back to me.” If you HAD to choose, like say, a hostage situation forced you to pick ONE, which skill would you take with you and which one would you leave behind?
Some say they would pick writing style, and that’s completely understandable. There’s nothing better than reading well thought-out prose that roll off the tongue in a rhythmic verse. It’s words in motion, imagery in strategically placed text. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. I know writers who are bona fide wordsmiths, can spit lyrical devastation that would make angels weep, but can’t write a three-dimensional character or plot to save their lives. If overdone, the work will leave readers confused, and you as the writer will come off a pretentious hack.
Then there’s the storyline option. This is what keeps readers up at 3AM trying to get to the end, yet afraid to reach the last page. The plot twists, the pacing, the surprise ending, the detailed characterization that engages the reader on a personal level. The only problem is that the sentence structure is too simple, childlike, and without real finesse. This is a major turn-off to most readers to the point where they will stop reading altogether, never reaching that pentacle part of the tale.
So we are stuck in a conundrum. You have a bunch of pretty words that say nothing, or a good joke with a bad delivery. The true difference between the two is that one is a talent and the other is a craft. You can’t learn an idea, but master the functions of language over time. One can only hope inspiration for a good premise will strike, where research and study can improve one’s vocabulary. Creativity needed to construct innovative story lines is unpredictable and operate on its own accord.
Rhetorical and over-analytical as it seems, I thought it was an interesting question that I still don’t have the answer to. But I would love to hear your take on the situation. Which category do you fall under? Which do you feel is the most important to have as a writer?