The Reality of Medium
Why is it that a piece about the mechanics of craft isn’t nearly as interesting as the product of the craft?
I think it’s connected to the idea of relatability. This is not necessarily a new problem for this site – I write about a wide variety of art forms and it’s a challenge to keep things interesting. But most people have seen a photo, beheld a painting, or shattered a piece of pottery while attempting to make their morning cup of coffee. Those things are relatable. Start talking about ISO sensitivity levels, the optimal number of bristles in a paintbrush, or the architecture of the modern kiln…and people’s eyes glaze over like a forgotten donut in the front seat of a pickup.
And there’s this part that echoes the mantra of every science museum catering to the ‘under 12’ demographic: “WE’LL MAKE IT INTERESTING ANYWAYS!!”, “WE’LL GET PEOPLE TO BECOME ARTISTS!!”
And then we’re on to something. And before you know it you’ve learned about otherwise painfully boring topics because some brain ninja tricked your brain into actually caring.
Always add a ticking clock
In fiction writing we have this trope element called the ‘ticking clock’ where we establish that the protagonist solve the stated problem (rescue the girl, diffuse the bomb, right the ship, whatever the plot calls for) under some deadline. Examples:
Avengers: Re-route the nuke before it hits the city.
Avengers the other one: Fix the falling island for obvious reasons.
Star Wars: Blow up the Death Star for obvious reasons.
Back to the Future: Fix the past before the future is erased.
And so when the topic at hand doesn’t organically reach into our soul and full-nelson our attention…our minds tend to wander…a lot. So it helps when we throw in a car chase to ratchet things up a bit, add a hostage (or two), or schedule a date between our main character and a total loser just to see if she figures it out in time.
AND THIS IS JUST ONE ASPECT OF STORYTELLING!!!
I’m not even touching characterization, plot, subplot, setting/world-building, prose, sentence structure, blah, blah, blah, etc.. The point is made.
Content sans story is boring.
This is what makes journalism so incredibly unappealing to me (and why I’m super annoyed with myself for writing journalist-style articles – IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!! I DIDN’T MEAN IT!!!). I mean, I get it – some people like un-biased truth on a topic (for whatever reason), but that’s not me. Take a side. Care about a character. Cringe when he does something dumb. And rejoice like crazy when he tastes victory. Because in fiction, we get to be right there with them.
But isn’t that the point of journalism? To let the facts tell the story? Without any help from the writer? Maybe, but I’ve never heard anyone start a conversation with “ya know, a few years ago, I was reading this newspaper article…”
But maybe that’s not the point of journalism to begin with. It’s not supposed to be remembered, maybe it’s simply supposed to proport the truth and fall to the forgotten. I don’t know. I’ve most likely offended a journalist or seven so I’ll leave you with this: