Sunday, June 5, 2011

16310--So, you wrote a story. Who cares?

     If you're going to take the time and use the energy to string words together coherently, you should have a good reason for spilling them out of your head in the first place.  I would think you're either trying to take some of the workload off your memory or communicate something to others.  When I write here or produce some bit of fiction, it's with the expectation that what I write will be read by others.  With that in mind, I make the effort to write things that will be of some interest to other people.

     When you're writing a work of fiction, it's likely going to be populated with characters who move your story along from point-to-point.  Those characters can't be mindless mules schlepping the tale on their backs.  They have to seem as real and interesting as anyone that every reader knows, with lives and purpose all their own.  Dress them up, furnish the living room and slap some paint on their walls.  When the readers are able to empathize with these characters, they will take an interest in them and care about what happens to them.  I was never turned off more quickly about feeling for a character I was reading as at the moment I saw that she didn't care about what was happening to her in her own story.  In what had been a story that was holding my interest, the protagonist was suddenly composing a to-do list while being raped.  I asked myself, "If she doesn't care what's happening to her, why should I?"  I closed the book and never went back.

     As a corollary to this, fiction writers who are building their own worlds (and we should know who we are) must build them with rules.  Sure, part of the fun of a magical or superscience world is that things can happen there that don't happen in the world we happen to live in every day.  Despite that, it still needs to have some degree of structure.  The reader will come to your work with an expectation of consistency.  To put the corollary simply, "If anything can happen, who cares what does?"


     On some level, my feelings about this are a bit strong.  Years ago, back when I used to read comic books, I took an afternoon to study a multitude of the industry's stock and trade characters: heroes and villains.  This resulted in my making a list of all the characters whose special abilities made sense and a list of those whose didn't.  From that point on, I had a more deeply defined respect for the well-crafted characters and wished only for the demise of the stupid ones that had been created only for convenience.  Give your characters the time and attention they deserve.  Give them their depth and flesh.  You'll end up with something you and your readers are happier with.

     Oh, if you were in the right movie theater for the right showing of "X-Men 3: The Last Stand", yes, that was me cheering when Cyclops (Scott Summers) was killed.  As a character, he's a bit dull.  He has a cool superpower, but it's a stupid mutant power.  Unleashing devastating beams of concussive force from the eyes manifesting as a mutation in a single generation is ridiculous.  He might as well have sprouted big, white bird wings when he hit puberty.  Genetically, it lacks about as much sense.  Now you know.

I'm going to go grumble to myself some more about stupid comic book characters, but I'd love to hear about any that you'd like to grumble about.

Are there any characters who push your buttons by not being all they could be?

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