So, I was thinking about one of my favorite Bible stories the other day (are you on the right blog? Yes, I have mentioned before that I am a Christian who stays busy teaching Bible classes and occasionally preaching). I know, some folks reading this may not have my appreciation for the Bible, but please bear with me here.
So, I was thinking about a story in the book of 1 Kings. Let me recap it briefly. Elijah, a great prophet, had just stood up for God and won a great victory which involved God showing His power very directly to the people. After this great victory, the queen threatens Elijah, who is terrified and runs away. He is upset and scared and says he wishes he was dead (1 Kings 19:4). God takes several steps to strengthen and encourage him, and finally tells Elijah that He is going to appear to Him. A great wind comes, but God is not in the wind. An earthquake comes, but God is not in the earthquake. A fire comes, but God is not there either. Finally, Elijah hears a gentle whisper, and finds that the Lord has come to talk to him.
The point of this story that any of you who are secular writers might take is that often times, the really important things are in the gentle whisper, not the tornado, earthquake, or fire. Often times as writers, we want to “go for the gusto” with the dramatic, the edgy, or the silly. We forget that we need to connect with our readers through simple things.
What would Kal-El be on a world full of Kryptonians? Average. What is he when surrounded by everyday folks like you and me? Superman. If you have a terribly interesting character and/or an amazing plot twist to surprise everyone with, but you turn your readers off with your confusing grammar and writing style before they finish chapter one, where are you? If you are writing non-fiction and have the most insightful views into human nature since The Prince but folks can’t stay awake through your thoughts, what good will it do?
In advertising, they used to say “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” I’m here to remind you that in writing (and in life), without the steak, there is no sizzle. Don’t ignore the basic essentials when working your craft. Listen to the whispers, and don’t let the wind, earthquake, and fire drown them out.