Neil Gaiman and the Difference betwixt Good Writing and a Good Story
Gaiman co-edited an anthology of short stories, entitled Stories, with Al Sarrantonio.
It its introduction, Gaiman writes, “What we missed, what we wanted to read, were stories that made us care, stories that forced us to turn the page. Yes, we wanted good writing (why be satisfied with less?). But we wanted more than that.”
The Guardian Book Blog took issue with the comment, saying that the best writing must come with a good story.
To be fair, I’m not sure Gaiman would say any different. If anything, Gaiman seems to be saying that you can have a good story without good writing. (Harry Potter is an easy example but there are plenty of others.) But Gaiman said he wanted stories with both.
My co-blogger, Tricia, might argue that if a story is good enough, it is also good writing. She would not be alone in her opinion.
Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, “A good writer is basically a story-teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.”
Others would argue that the two are inseparable. For the writing to be good, so must the story. (This is the point the Guardian seems to want to make.) Also, for the story to be good, the writing must be also.
Thomas Hardy wrote, "The recent school of novel writers forget in their insistence on life, and nothing but life, in a plain slice, that a story must be worth the telling, that a good deal of life is not worth any such thing, and that they must not occupy the reader’s time with what he can get at first hand anywhere around him."
I, personally, would distinguish between good writing and good stories; but I agree with the Guardian Book Blog in that the best examples of both have the support of the other.
Moving on, Stories includes short fiction from Roddy Doyle, Joanne Harris, Jodi Picoult, Peter Straub, Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Moorcock.
Doyle’s story, in the words of Gaiman, is “a beautiful, heartbreaking study of a mid-life crisis and the failure of a marriage.”
It also has vampires, which leads Gaiman to ruminate, “Like some kind of particularly tenacious vampire the short story refuses to die, and seems at this point in time to be a wonderful length for our generation. It’s a perfect length to read on an iPad, your Kindle or your phone.”
So there you have it. Short stories are the new vampires.
Finally, I wanted to leave you with Neil Gaiman and Damian Kulash from OK Go singing “Happy Together.”
-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com
P.S. This begs for a Venn Diagram showing where I feel certain authors land on the overlap between "good writing" and "good stories."