Updated: Jan 1
Advice Blog 7 Nov 21 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the 1 Aug 21 issue Author News advice blog, I discussed emotional impact. If you don’t recall the points that can make your story great, here they are again: 1. Is the story original? 2. Is the plot enthralling? 3. Is the author’s style superior? 4. Does the story have emotional impact? 5. Is the story memorable? This month we take up number 5, Is the story memorable? I try to achieve this in my writing.
Let us examine the meaning of “memorable.” Once again I pull my dusty Websters from its place on the shelf, prominently hanging out with my other reference books. We find the word means “worth remembering; notable; remarkable.” Here’s a little test, try remembering something memorable that you once read.
Not fair to leave myself out of this test, so here goes my contribution: I remember reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy many years ago. It stunned me. To me it meant that the earth was not the only home in the universe for intelligent beings. Memorable? You bet.
Okay, how did you do? Did you find something memorable?
What does it take to make a memorable story? My take on it is that much depends on whether or not the theme of the story reinforces something in your mind that is latent there. Not conscious necessarily, but ready to burst into view or cognizance.
Let us interpret my example of the Foundation Trilogy in that light. Suppose instead of the idea of other beings in the universe, I stood convinced that the only intelligent entities were on earth. I doubt that I would remember the Foundation Trilogy. Probably, I would have realized that that was the idea and shoved the books aside without finishing them. So, some potential or actual agreement must exist.
None of the other points of great stories meets this test. Neither originality, emotional impact, superior style or enthralling plot do although they may add to making a story memorable.
We’ll leave our analysis of the question and look at how a writer might make a story memorable. First would be to know your own mind. Chances are that what resides there is shared by many other people. Second would be whether the theme (some call this the central or narrative idea) is clear to the reader. Note that I didn’t imply the theme should mimic preaching. However, it should imbue the plot and characters with life.
Best would be that the theme was not stated per se but developed as the plot unfolds and the characters act and reveal themselves. Keep it subtle, not stated overtly and openly with blazing lights.
Is it surprising that some writers and books on writing say not to think of theme at all; instead to let it develop with the story as it is written? According to what we have discussed above that might be best after all. The downside to this approach, as I see it: the theme’s memorability could be a hit or miss happenstance. Still, your story could be memorable to some of your readers.
Chances are that if you are writing in a genre, more readers of that genre will track with you and agree with your theme. So, know the expectations of readers in your genre, and your theme might jiggle in their minds.
In the Feb 2022 issue of our Advice Blog, we’ll take up outlining and revising your story using a checklist of to-do actions.
Note: The book of short speculative fiction "Eve of Valor: 25 Tales" is available on Amazon. Click here.