Does Your Writing Have Character?

Red Pencils

 

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?

  1. 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!
  1. Read through your draft and ask, “Does each element of this article or story complement and highlight my overall message?”
  1. 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?

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Does Your Writing Have Character?

  1. Don’t people see things differently, though? There can be more than one theme in a piece, especially a longer work. Something might resonate with a reader because of his personal feelings or his life experience. I think that’s okay as long as the reader perceives a message or theme or moral that is positive and good. He might not get the “whole picture,” but still may come away with a nugget of wisdom or a bit of encouragement that is part of the central theme of the story. I am not sure I am giving a valid answer to your post, but your post generated some thoughts and I’m trying to express them, but I may not be getting my thoughts across.

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    1. Oh no, I think you’ve expressed yourself very well! I agree that different readers will interpret our work in different ways (reading literary critics often reveals all sorts of theories about the message behind a work), and that’s not entirely bad. Keeping an overall focus in mind, however, can help bring a sense of unity to our work and give readers the sense that something important is being communicated (even if they disagree on what that is). And asking other readers what they perceive the message to be can help us learn what we did especially well and what we did that may have been a little fuzzy as far as communicating our theme…even if we don’t change a thing, the exercise may help us to be even stronger communicators in the future. As always, I loved your comment – thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

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  2. Really great tips! It’s always good to take a step back from our work and reflect on these basic concepts. So often I find that I get so absorbed in my writing some of it (which may seem relevant to me) just doesn’t belong and doesn’t help with the “message” I’m trying to get across.

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  3. I think these are great points. What I love about writing is how God can use what is written as a personal message to the reader. This has happened to me numerous time as the reader. While I got the main drift the author intended, but God took it one step deeper to speak to my heart. I love how He does that!

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