Tips for Aspiring Authors: Timelessness

I’m not any big shot author, by any means. I’ve never even finished a book. So this series is a reader’s point of view on how to be a good author. Whether you’re an author or a reader, knowing this can be beneficial. As an aspiring author, I’m always trying to figure out what to do to make my stories better. And as a reader, I’m always looking for a good book, so I’m always looking for good authors. Keep in mind, each one of these installments is just one of the elements that I find to make up the work of a solid writer. (My tips will mostly relate to works of fiction, rather than non-fiction, because I haven’t done a whole lot of non-fiction writing or reading. If you have tips on non-fiction writing let me know in the comments, because that would be awesome!)

“All that is not eternal, is eternally out of date.”  
-C.S. Lewis

Whether a story is told yesterday, today, or tomorrow, it should echo truths that he who reads it yesterday, today, or tomorrow will understand. But remember that “most profound truths are just timely ideas.” -(Walter Darby Bannard) How can a timely story be timeless?

I was reading an article by Jeff Goins about the Great Gatsby and the secret to its lasting endurance. He brings out several good points.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about his time. But, he also dug deeper, he threaded into the pages of his story, themes that transcend through time. Fitzgerald brings out the glitz and glamour of the Roaring ’20’s in order to bring out the raw human in his characters. Ambition, success, love, and deception seep through the words, making this book timeless. Having an exact time, place, and theme are the backbone to a story. But the heart, is the truths that will make anyone who picks up the book, anywhere, anytime, feel as though this story was written the day they picked up. (I wouldn’t want to be walking around without a backbone or a heart).

My mom used to tell me that readers often prefer to read stories from real life rather than stuff you make up. When she would say that, I didn’t really agree with her, because my favorite books then were all entirely fictional. And I loved to write fantasy stories. But now, I see where she was going with that. 

You need to write about what you know for readers to know what you’re writing about.

In order for a story to be believable, the author has to believe what they’re writing. We believe most what we’ve actually experienced. This doesn’t mean you have to write only memoirs or an auto-biography. You can write about dragons, aliens, or whatever else comes to mind. But a story has to have a backbone that’s believable. Characters people can relate to. I often base my characters off of people I know. I didn’t do that for a long time, and I dread reading those stories now, because they feel fake. The messages you bring across in your books are richest when you believe them. 

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Ernest Hemingway

If you’re not bleeding, you’re not writing. And the reader will know that. You’re stories will be fluff. Take elements from your life. What do you know? What do you believe? For a reader to understand a story, it needs to be more than just a log of a character’s life. It has to draw out fundamental truths of life.

This also doesn’t mean that stories have to be all sorrow and anguish. The book I’m reading right now is A Year in Provence. It’s not heart-wrenching by any means. But, I love seeing the way that Mayle sees people. The relationships he has and makes with family, neighbors, friends, even the guys working on his house. I feel as though I’ve been living in Provence. I know the people he knows. I’ve played boules, eaten tapenade, attended the weekly market, all because the author wrote about what he knew. (And that book was written more than thirty years ago).

So, the key to timeless work, which is a key to a great story, is the following:

  • Create a backbone of now and a heart of forever.
  • Make your story believable. Believe what you write.
  • Write from your life.

Let me know…

  • What do you think makes a story timeless?
  • Who do you find to be a timeless author?

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