A good book is a parable of our times.

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I HAVE TO ADMIT I am old-fashioned about a lot of things.

Personal responsibility is one of them.

By this I mean that a person should take care of the people and things under his care, but he should also look beyond his small circle of influence to the society in which he lives.

He should be a good citizen.

But how does that apply to a writer who spends his time making up stories?

The writer should tell stories that matter, stories that inform and challenge while they entertain us.

That’s a tall order I know.

Writing is a tall order.

The more I do it, the more I understand the layers of the craft.

It is a complicated process to tell a simple story, a story that is a parable of our times.

Keep it simple stupid.

But how does an author keep seventy thousand words simple?

The temptation is almost unavoidable to fill in with a few murders here, a bedroom scene there, banter sprinkled about that does nothing to advance the plot.

Those things are okay  if the author also tells us about fundamental issues, if she uses her precious freedom of speech to write words about the plight of others, the still rampant rule of hatred among people who deem themselves civilized or appointed to a divine mission.

The human heart in conflict with itself.

That sounds like a good topic for a book, doesn’t it?

It’s the subject of any good book.

Stephen Woodfin is author of The Compost Pile.

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