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Ideas vs Words
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Last week I read Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I can't remember whether I read it when I was a kid, or even if I saw the Disney movie. I do seem to recall having a set of View-Master reels based on the story. I must have. Where else would I have seen a giant 3D squid?

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. Surprised, because it probably it wouldn't meet a single requirement for either literary or popular fiction today. The style was clunky, the plot virtually nonexistent, descriptions of marine flora and fauna resembled encyclopedia entries.

Yet the voyage of the Nautilus had me enthralled. I was constantly amazed by the undersea world Verne conjured up -- from the ruins of Atlantis to the treacherous waters beneath the south pole pack ice.

Ideas are far and away the most important aspect of fiction. All the stylistic matters writers and editors and critics tend to agonize over, mean nothing compared to ideas.

We struggle to learn writing skills because most of us do not have truly great ideas and so, to make our stories work, we need to express what little we have to say in the most enjoyable manner possible. Most of us are competing to elevate our pedestrian imaginings slightly above the mediocre thoughts of others by dint of whatever technical tricks we can learn.

If I had the vision of a Jules Verne I wouldn't need to know how to write.

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