“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story.” –Flannery O’Connor in “Writing Short Stories”
Guilty as charged. I ask students to think about meaning, theme, and characters all the time. It’s my job. We pull it apart, but in that process something is definitely lost. Rarely do we just suggest someone go back and read the story. We’re losing the art. The romance. The wonder.
All of my grading rubrics ask about analysis and interpretation. None of them ask if the student liked the story or not, or if I motivated them to find something to appreciate.
One thing I try to do, though, is get them to think about the words. What really needs to be said? What really is the point here? Sometimes the words don’t even seem that related, but then they connect. Like in “A Good Man is Hard To Find” which I’m going over in class, O’Connor includes moments of levity just to increase the tension and sympathy later on. The personalities of the children especially are so sharp and understood, and then end so quickly. It makes it even more dramatic.
If there’s one thing I’ve gotten better at as a writer, it’s the economy of words. I’m asked to do more with less in my current work as a copywriter. I used to get mad at my words getting cut as a journalist. Now, I understand it’s part of the process and leads to a stronger piece most of the time.
I don’t want people to summarize what I write. I want people to read what I write.