Finding the depth in one's writing
| Most of the writers who have mastered the basics of writing and constructing a story can tell a good story to keep us interested to the end, but only a few can affect us deeply in an unforgettable way. When you write a story, a play, or a novel, you are telling your readers that something happened. The question is: Are you also saying that something happened, but it also came out offering a life lesson by making you and your readers think deeply, feel strongly, and empathize truly?
John Truby says in The Anatomy of Story, "Write something that will change your life." He calls this the moral argument of the story. Moral arguments may be injected through the themes like good vs. bad, tragedy, pathos, satire and irony, and black comedy.
When we look at the time-tested classics or the stories of our time that move us deeply, we see that each of them offers a moral argument or projects a moral quality. This moral quality offers a true drama, the drama of the human condition, which is more than any momentary entertainment.
In Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, the main character Philip learns to love, asking the question "Will I ever be free?" possibly referring to freedom from his internal demons that make him a victim. The story examines Philip's struggle with moral circumstances, his self-absorption, his pursuit of physical beauty and the dilemma it creates for him, his internal growth, and his battle against the societal norms.
In The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner offers moral arguments about the corruption of aristocratic values, the families losing touch with the reality of the world, the value of purity and innocence, and the relevance of past and present in human life.
The moral argument or the moral quality in a story leads to what is called deep-writing, which the most prestigious awards like the Pulitzer and the Nobel seek.
Deep-writing is more than entertaining or even establishing a conversation with the reader, because it begins by going deep into one's own being, which brings us to the subject of self-awareness. Self-awareness is veering away from our idealized selves into whatever lives inside our shadows. This undertaking is a brave venture that each serious writer needs to take on, to face his moral problems because moral problems lead to moral choices, and then, to successful work.
Most deep-writing starts with a moral need. The moral need may be applied to individuals or to societies, or both, thus generating moral arguments. To create a moral need:
Start with a weakness. Then figure out what kind of immoral action this weakness may create. Identify the origins of the weakness.
Push the strength of a character or society too far and turn it into a weakness.
Find a value a character believes in or a value common to a society. Then, create the opposite of that value.
An important thing to keep in mind is, a psychological need is not the same as a moral need. Give your characters a moral need as well as a psychological need. An example to a psychological need can be the need to be loved, and an example of a moral need can be making the right decision to choose between going to war to serve one's country or staying to mind his exceptional child.
Keep the character's finding out what he really needs, moral or psychological, as a secret from him until the end. If he finds it out too early, the story may be over too soon. You may, however, give your main character a superficial desire or a yearning for something other than his real need, to work on in the beginning.
Then, as a tip related to this subject, try not to open a story with the main character's true desire. Weakness and need make better openings.
Most importantly, reading good writing but reading with consciousness is the best way to learn deep writing.