Do you want to escape?

Get out of your head

As a reader, I want to escape into a story and don’t want to return until I absolutely must. This kind of escapism is not unusual. Life is not ideal. We can’t always afford to take ourselves away from the life we have. Books and movies give us a more affordable way to live a different life, if only for a few hours. When we escape like this, the last thing we want is to be dropped out of our fantasy world and brought back to reality with a thump.

When editing, my job is to look for things which will drop a reader out of the story. Some of these can be:

  • spelling, grammar and punctuation errors;
  • characters acting ‘out of character’ or stupidly;
  • inconsistencies;
  • awkward phrasing, lack of clarity;
  • breaking the rules of the story world;
  • breaking the rules of the genre (killing the hero in a romance story).

These and others are dangerous to the career of the writer because once a reader is ‘dumped’ out of the story, they might:

  • remember all the things they should be doing instead of reading;
  • get so frustrated they throw the book at the wall; and/or
  • never forgive the writer and write them on their blacklist.

Telling lies for a living

Why we write

There is nothing wrong with telling lies for a living. Writers of fiction are not the only ones who do it. So long as there is no intent to commit fraud or harm, why should we not? After all, it is not only writers who tell lies for a living. Poets, artists, singers and songwriters, actors, commedians…

Why do we love these liars, buy their books, music, art and movies? Because we find value in suspending our disbelief, opening our hearts and minds to their lies and finding that most valuable kernel of truth.

Books v Movies


There is a lot that writers of different persuasions can learn from each other despite their differences. Books and movies both have advantages and disadvantages when we’re talking about story.

Starting with the most obvious, the time taken to watch a movie is (usually) much less than that necessary to read the book of the same story, and a movie gives the watcher more aural and visual information which a reader must imagine. The writer, on the other hand, has much more scope to insert information which it’s impossible to include in a commercial length movie.

Commercial considerations and the particular skills of writers, publishers, screenwriters, directors, actors and editors of each version will shape the final book and movie. Whether the book or the movie of a story is better often hangs on personal preference and those commercial decisions.

A writer of books will always need to read and analyse as many stories as possible to continue learning and keep up-to-date with their craft. However, analysing movies to study story is efficient and effective as anyone who has watched Casablanca over the course of a day with Robert McKee can attest.

I highly recommend Alexandra Sokoloff’s website Screenwriting Tricks for Authors to anyone wanting to learn more.


Words, Stories and the Heart

Language of the heart

Isn’t this the most wonderful use of words! I was talking to someone recently who was curious about my work as an editor. The book I’m currently working on is a moving story told in approximately 80,000 words. He couldn’t get over that number. How many words! In reality, it’s not an especially large book. Then he confided that he didn’t think he’d ever read that many words at a time, that he’d never read a book.

How sad! I know there are other people out there like him. I’ve met a number of them and recently saw a program about those who are unable to read or write effectively. How does one live without reading? It’s hard for me to imagine living without books and reading.

This made me think though, about how Story is everywhere around us. We use it to amuse, entertain, inform and educate ourselves and others. It’s in the jokes we tell to make people laugh, to illustrate the absurdity of life by exaggeration and fantasy. It’s in the sermons and parables of priests and ministers. It’s in schools and universities, used to illustrate concepts and ideas to assist scholars’ comprehension and understanding.

It’s all over the internet in websites and blogs. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram where ordinary people can share stories of their lives, their pets, their favourite things, pet peeves, warnings, memes with morales…

The arts are all about story whether it’s in the pictures which tell a thousand words and move us without saying a thing aloud. It’s in the music we listen to when we want to be soothed, stirred or forget ourselves in melody and dance. It’s at theatres in plays, ballets and every other kind of performance. It’s in everything from great literature and novels down to comics, magazines and newspapers.

Turn on the radio or television and there it is, in neat little packages defined by however many minutes or seconds advertisers buy, in news and current affairs, serialised in sitcoms, made-for-tv movies and reruns of blockbuster movies we once bought tickets to see at the cinema. Movies on which mountains of money are spent vying for consumer dollars, Oscars and every other award and accolade for what? For those who tell the best, the worst, the most popular stories.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without reading, without bookcases full of wonderful words and books. But, should the ability to read be taken away, I guess one could find a fix of Story elsewhere. It’s not the same, in my opinion, but for those who cannot read, I guess it’s better than nothing.

What is your favourite form of story?