Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Follow-up...

Of course, is that adding all those elements of disaster (person rejected, drought imperils the farm, government oppression, tornado), are settings, not story. Story is the action and reaction of human beings, and it had better not be just what we expect. Yes, seeing the rejected person accepted, the mustachios-twirling villain thwarted and then vanquished, the town rebuild, all these things are satisfying, but they're too easy.

Give us a great human character (no, not a "good guy"). We don't need to like or sympathize with them. That's nanowrimo bullshit. We don't need to admire their epic struggle against corporate America or whatever (have you read Franzen's Freedom? Remember any of those "good" cardboard characters? On the other hand, do you remember Anna Karenina, the worst person in the world who only ever killed one person, herself?

Drama happens inside a human being. It is active, not reactive. The worst moment in your character's life should not be running from a tornado. Ideally it could take place while they are sitting quietly on their sofa, alone, thinking. Or in the moment after they hang up their phone, or see a picture, or hear one word. And it will hit your reader while they are sitting quietly on their sofa, alone, reading.

You don't have to send a tornado to impact your reader. You have to send true drama. Know where it lives.

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