If there is one writing lesson that Poynter has taught for more than three decades now, it’s that good stories need a sharp focus.
I once heard my friend Chip Scanlan say that all parts of the writing process amount to these three words: focus, focus, focus.
We focus the:
- Story idea
And, yes, we probably even focus the focus.
I have compared focus to the way that the eyedoctor tests you for new lenses. The image is supposed to get sharper and sharper with each slight correction.
But there’s always a big but, isn’t there?
How do we account for great works of art that defy all attempts to declare a focus? Does Hamlet have a focus? Or Moby Dick? Or Huckleberry Finn? What makes these works great (and perhaps flawed at the same time) is a certain recklessness on the part of the writer, a sense that the story cannot be easily defined or confined by theme or “focus.”
It is OK to face the question: “What is your story REALLY about?” and answer, “It’s REALLY about a lot of things.”