Guest Post by Melanie Fogel
Here’s the thing:
I’m a great believer in writing from the inside out. What that means is that, although good story is more important than good writing, writing is the only means you have of conveying the story.
So at some point, you stop writing story and take a hard look at the way you’ve used the words. You aim for the lightning rather than the lightning bug (I assume you know Twain’s quote on the subject). But if you haven’t got the story firmly anchored in your head–the character, the setting, the meaning of the climax–then you can’t come up with the lightning words.
In one of the great climactic scenes in Caryl Férey’s Zulu, he uses the word “totem” to talk about the stillness of the protagonist. He could have used “statue,” or “carved figure,” or “rock,” but believe me, “totem” is killer lightning. It took everything that happened in the novel prior to this point to make “totem” so striking (pun intended). And you gasp, not only at the brilliant writing, but at the significance of the sentence to the story.
Honestly, I could teach an entire writing course based on that novel.
Mike’s Note: This article will find a permanent home under “The Fogel Speaks.”