Saturday, May 14, 2011

On writing stories.

Although new at this, I nevertheless learned a very important lesson early on.
Stories are about people.
Without people, there is no story. A good plot, excellent prose, and superior writing skills mean nothing unless the story is about people.
At first I thought I should write realistic stories. Stories about common ordinary people who were thrust into extraordinary situations and battled to find a way to triumph. My efforts were met with a “ho-hum so what” attitude.
I read stories of substandard quality that seemed to resonate with the reader and were consequently more popular than mine, and I started to question myself. What am I missing here? I re-read these stories, all about dysfunctional relationships; women or men who had miserable or abusive childhoods and who, consequently, were unable or unwilling to learn to cope with their adult selves, characters who seemed to be powerless to do the intelligent things or in fact resisted any attempt to learn from their mistakes, and then It came to me.
Readers want to be swept away from their mundane existence. They want to experience the bizarre, swept up by a muscular man with impressive sexual equipment, mesmerized by the antics of a harlot who doesn't have a clue how to live, frightened by the idiot who steps into harm's way, knowing that at any minute the monster that lurks in the dark will sink his or her fangs into their neck and drink blood. Readers want to escape reality and enter new worlds that may frighten them, make them weep, or disgust them. They want to be swept away to exotic places, terrified by violent danger, stimulated buy sudden, passionate romance, captivated by quirky characters who have shaky pasts they never experienced, and intrigued by new ideas and concepts. In the world of books, one can snap back, simply by putting the book down, back to sanity and safety. It's a hard job, but somebody's gotta do it.
I got the message...

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