Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ever since this TED Talk by Andrew Stanton (quotes are from his talk). I've thought about little else when it comes to storytelling.  While his talk is called "The Clues to a Great Story," it might as well be called "Wonder."  Because that's what I took away from it.  This essential element is often what's missing from making a good book...great.

"Capturing a truth from your experience."

It's the thing that can't really be defined or explained in plain clothes.  It's a character's tone of voice, and pitch perfect dialogue.  An inspired setting that takes you outside of one world and places you in another.  It's the thing that provides the framework for the reader to fill in the blanks.  A good story makes you wonder what it's like to be someone else, somewhere else, with problems that are either exactly like ours or so different that it makes us feel like we have even a small sampling of control.

It's that moment in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where Richard Dreyfuss makes a mountain of his mashed potatoes and says, "This means something.  This is important."

"We're born problem solvers...we can't help ourselves from wanting to complete the sentence, to fill it in...Don't give them 4.  Give them 2+2."

That's the wonder in story for me--the compulsion, the meaning, the purpose.  It's not what initially hooks me, although wonder can do that.  It's what captivates me, that makes me unable to stop reading.  It's the open tap into human creativity, and writing that uses each and every word efficiently (not only for beauty).

"Wonder is can't be artificially invoked."  

Perhaps the next time someone asks you why you love a book, and you don't have words for it, you could say, "It made me wonder."  The right people will know what you mean.  ;)

What was the last book (or any art) that made you feel a sense of meaning, or a shared truth, or just entertained the hell out of you?  

Noah St. John knows how to tell a story.  Knocked our socks off.

Zev knows self portraits.  Made us want to be ten again.


Stephanie Mooney said...

I love this post so much! That talk was really inspiring to me too. It's amazing -- and sometimes frustrating (for writers anyway) -- that the most important parts of storytelling are often intangible and indefinable. It's one of the few forms of real magic.

Stephanie Mooney said...

Ps. Love this especially: "Wonder is honest... it can't be artificially invoked."

Sarah Hipple said...

Photographs of places I'd LOVE to see make me feel that sense of wonder.

I mean, definitely books too (and books can have the added benefit of making me happy & making me think), but photography can cause a very instant ache that I recognize.

Anonymous said...

"It's not what initially hooks me, although wonder can do that. It's what captivates me..."

This post basically put in words what I've been trying to say whenever I want to describe my favorite books.

Kristan said...

"Don't give them 4. Give them 2+2."

Yes! I love that! And that's the real difference between showing and telling, IMO. Not passive voice or whatever people think; but letting readers see/hear the characters, and then letting readers decipher those images/sounds on their own.

Over my recent vacation, I read OLIVE KITTERIDGE, which definitely does that masterfully. Small town Maine, but lots of wonder. :)

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Ooh, I love this. I feel like "wonder" perfectly describes how I feel about my favourite books. The being transported into their world (whether it's fantastical or just another version of our own), getting to know characters who feel so real, identifying with what they're going through, etc... all moments of wonder, both the feeling of awe and in the sense of questioning.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
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Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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