So You Think You Can Write

One of my favorite TV shows is So You Think You Can Dance. I watch the episodes streamed on Hulu.com because I’m never able to catch them at the time they’re televised.

While watching the show the other night, I noticed some similarities between dance as an art form, and writing.  Dance is an art, as is theater, music, the visual arts, and of course the various literary arts. Each art can be performed with varying levels of creativity.

One of the points made by judge Little C was how each dancer, as an artist, interprets dance differently. They may each execute the same steps, but it’s how the dance is performed that makes the difference. Some dancers are superb technicians with impeccable timing, posture, extensions, and all the other myriad moves that are choreographed into a performance. But if their heart and style and individuality is left out, they won’t rise above the ordinary. Dancers who give it their all and let themselves feel the joy of dance, who pay less attention to their steps and more to how dance lifts their souls, are the ones who become extraordinary artists.

So I got to thinking about how writing is much the same way. I should change the title of this post to So You Think Can Write a Novel because writing, like dance, is interpreted different ways. There are superb technicians who are competent wordsmiths. Journalists and technical writers might fit in that camp. If you can write an excellent software manual, can you write an equally excellent novel?

Maybe.

Good skill in one area does not guarantee excellence in another even if it’s the same art. Aside from the X factor no one can quite put their finger on, when it comes to writing fiction, there’s so much more to it than good grammar and a knack for stringing sentences together. A great poet may be a poor storyteller, a fabulous storyteller may suck at journalism. I think it’s rare for a writer to be especially good at writing everything, but I’m sure there are exceptions.

So tell me, writers, are you a good writer? Or are you a good storyteller? Do you think there’s a difference?

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Karen DuvallKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

2 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Write

  1. Chris Pitchford

    If you can answer one question asked by the reader: “Why am I reading this?” then yes. You can write in any genre in any field. The answer is different for everyone, and changes over time. I’m not saying that you can please every reader all the time. But more important than the clever plot, witty dialogue, snappy pace or even smooth wordsmithing, there must be a connection that the reader can experience.

    I’ll stop here, but I feel an essay/article/blogthing coming on!

    Reply
  2. Liesa Malik

    Hi Karen, I love this topic! As a ballroom dancer and writer of both business copy and novels, I can tell you that it is a struggle to get into the “right mindset” for each activity. Believe it or not, I find more commonality between dance and writing fiction than between writing fiction and writing business copy. Some days I become quite worn out, but then I sleep well and am willing to charge into the challenges once more the next day. Wishing you well always.

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