Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Detail or Detritus

“Every story--like every human situation--swims in a vast shoreless sea of possible information and detail. Almost all that information is totally uninteresting. What separates details that matter from those that don’t is the force field of conflict. It is conflict that pulls scattered information into an articulated shape, extracting relevant detail from the detritus of the irrelevant.” -- Stephen Koch in The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop.
Everything in a story revolves around conflict. I’ve read comments saying that strong, believable characters drive a story. Yes, the protagonist needs to be someone I like and care about, but without conflict does it matter how well-developed the characters are? Readers don’t care about what happens to one-dimensional characters in bland situations. They want characters in peril of losing something important. That’s what makes a story go: and knowing why this something is important to a character helps the author decide what details are important to the story.

2 comments:

Loren Christie said...

Thanks Jim. This is just what I needed to hear today.

Jim Harrington said...

You're welcome. Glad to see you're still around. Haven't heard from you in a while.