There are literally millions of theories floating around about what ingredients make up good writing. Few, however, have been around as long as the “Six Elements of Good Drama” found in Aristotle’s Poetics.
Second only to plot, Aristotle proposes that the most important element of a good story is its character, or that invisible element which reveals the story’s primary message and moral purpose. This is a powerful truth – and one that runs far deeper than simply tacking a cheesy “moral of the story” onto the end of each article or writing sample, folks!
According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word “character” can be defined as “moral force, integrity.” This is revealing, because the word “integrity” means to have all parts of something integrated for a united purpose. Just as living a life of integrity refers to allowing all areas of one’s life to reflect a common message, truly writing with character and integrity means that all the elements of our writing work together to reflect a common message or theme.
So how can you write with character?
- Ask yourself, “What’s the point? – What message am I trying to communicate?” If you’re not clear on the main idea, don’t expect your readers to stumble upon it!
- Read through your draft and ask, “Does each element of this article or story complement and highlight my overall message?”
- Try the Ultimate Litmus Test – have someone else read your work and ask them, “What do you think is the main message of this piece?” If their answer surprises you, be sure to ask them why they came to that conclusion.
I think Aristotle was onto something, and learning to write with character and integrity is a sure way to strengthen our work and inspire our readers!
Have You Found a Way to Strengthen the Integrity of Your Writing?
This post was submitted as part of IWSG, a fellowship of writing companions who agree to gather on the First Wednesday of every month to share encouragement and tips for their fellow writers.