Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Story versus Craft

I was researching fiction contests the other day and found a link to last year's winning story for a fairly prestigious contest. Thinking it would give me some insight into what the judges wanted, I read the story.

The piece was beautifully crafted. Every sentence was tight, each scene moved the plot along, and the grammar was perfect. But (you knew there was one coming) the story bored me. I've seen the same story done in the same way (though maybe not crafted so well) at least a hundred times. It didn't offer me, as a reader, anything new.

It brought up a discussion between a friend and me. As a reader who is not a writer, she says she'd rather read a great story with clunky prose or grammar errors. She doesn't care how beautifully crafted a piece is if it has a story that she's seen over and over or that doesn't hold her interest. As a writer who is also an avid reader, I am not sure where I draw the line.

I can only think of one book I ever stopped reading because I didn't like the plot. No matter how well-written it was, nothing could make me finish that book. I know there have been times, however, when I stopped reading something because poor grammar or awkward prose pulled me out of the story too often.

I aspire to have every story I write be as well-crafted as that contest winner. I also want to write stories that you, as a reader, cannot put down. I guess that's where my line is drawn - I want the best of both worlds.

What about you? Where's your line?