Story Light

When our critique group sits around the table, the discussion sometimes diverges from our storymaking undertaking, but usually finds its way back, as does my first entry in our blog.

Lately, I am thinking about sunlight. It is a rare commodity in the Northwest this time of year and I know I am not alone in my yearning for it. In fact, light yearning has long been a human preoccupation. Case in point: New Grange in Ireland, built over 5000 years ago. Its huge stones were aligned to allow sunlight to penetrate the inner passage and chamber exactly at sunrise around the Winter Solstice – an awesome engineering feat for Stone Age people – all for the wonder of a focused beam of light on the shortest days of the year.

I am thinking about the enlivening power of light, how each year the sun brings my garden to life. I am not talking about photosynthesis. I am talking about how sunlight shines through the garden: illuminating, dazzling; shadow and bright. The late afternoon slanting light is my favorite.

So how do these thoughts about sunlight transfer to writing? Like the Stone Age guys, we must set up all the elements of the story so that light penetrates the inner passage at the darkest moment. We craft our constructions from the stones of character and plot and language etc., and nudge our readers along to that moment of enlightenment. Light is about contrast, so of course dark is part of what we work with. But what exactly provides light, the enlivening element, in a story? What shines through, transcending the words on the page?

Or maybe it’s not the author but the reader who brings light to the work? Hmm. More thinking needed.

This is the kind of conversation I love to have with our critique group. Here, through our blog, we invite you to join the discussion.

7 responses to “Story Light

  1. Light can be magical, for sure. There is a man-made hill by Miller Outdoor Theater in Houston that has a statue on it. My childhood friends and I believed that on the longest day of the year, at sunset, the light would travel through a hole in that statue and illuminate a spot where there was hidden treasure. While this legend seems pretty dubious now, at the time, sitting on that hill and thinking that I just had to wait for the light to show me where treasure was, was pure magic. Thank you for starting this blog. I am sure it will be very interesting!

  2. Love this, Laura! My film agent has always said that you should go from darkness to light in a screenplay… and then there is that great Leonard Cohen song lyric, “there’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”

  3. So glad to see this blog, and all of you, at the table. Thanks for sharing! And how about that sunlight?!

  4. Thank you, Laura especially, for the invitation to your critique group’s books around the table. I , too, enjoy the late afternoon’s light among the branches of the maples and the sweet box. I like to draw children in shadow illuminated by subtle light.

  5. I’m reminded of the folk tale where the aging father decrees that he will leave his farm to the son who brings him a gift that will fill the biggest area of his barn. The first son brings a bag full of straw, which covers the floor. The second brings a wagon load of feathers, which fill the barn half way up. But the youngest simply takes out of his pocket a single match and the stub of a candle, and lighting the candle, fills the entire space with light.

  6. This has stuck with me since you posted it. Beautiful!

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