With apologies to The Killers.
The history of human communication is an interesting one, from an anthropological perspective. The idea that people told each other stories – to stave off the demons in the dark (or to bring them to life), to explain their visions in the sky, to keep close the triumphs and tragedies of their brethren – has always been lovely to me. I think it’s one of the main reasons why I first tried putting pen to paper, to preserve the ideas in my head, to answer the questions I wanted answered: Who are we? Why do we do the things we do? What hopes exist for us, out there in the vast wilderness?
Stories aren’t just about creating characters or putting plots into motion. They’re ways to examine the world around us. Which is why it saddens me to think there are writers, directors, editors, artists out there worried only about the next big thing, ways to capitalize upon the latest trend. People unconcerned about the story,when it’s the story that moves people.
Katniss Everdeen isn’t just a kick-ass fighter; she’s got a story. Batman isn’t just a gritty super-detective; he’s got a story. Henry Jekyll, James T. Kirk, Frodo Baggins, Spike Spiegel: what makes these characters great – frightening, masterful, inspiring, entertaining – is not just what they are but the role they fulfill within the greater story. Without Primrose, who is Katniss? Without his rogues’ gallery, who is Batman? That’s what engages readers and followers: the story around those characters and their world.
I tell stories I want to tell. It’s one of the reasons I’m so horrible at collaboration, I suppose. But the storyteller needs to create worlds that interest him. She needs to (try to) answer those questions weighing on her mind. He needs to fall in love – at least a little bit – with his story. We can put the manuscripts away when they’re done, but I think we’ve got to pay attention to more than just the cookie cutter basics that have been made popular.
Do you agree? When it comes to your latest/current work, what is it about it that drives you to tell that story?
Great post. I went to a workshop a few months ago, and the speaker was talking about what kinds of stories are selling right now, and if we wanted to get on the “bandwagon” to start writing those kinds of stories. A fellow writer who took the workshop later scoffed that the speaker had it all wrong. That what’s hot *now* is sliding off the scale. Dystopian might be big now, but in 2 years’ time when you think about how long it takes to write a story, publish it, and get it on the market–dystopian won’t be hot anymore.
There are writers who write to sell, and there are writers who write to write. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I write first and foremost because it is my passion. But I want to be able to do it every day of my life, and for that reason I need to be able to sell my work. So, when I think about stories I definitely start off with an idea that is meaningful and exciting to me–but I also build it with the idea that this needs to be a story that can sell.
I would love to write a dystopian novel, I think it would be a fun challenge that would lift me out of my writing box. And I do have a story idea that I came up with during a writing contest a few months back. But by the time I’ll be able to get to it, the dystopian craze will be replaced by something else. So, do I still write it? If I’m still in love with the story idea but the market for dystopian has gone soft, is it worth pursuing?
I don’t know. It’s too difficult to assess from this distance, but that doesn’t mean I will completely abandon it. I just have to wait and see.
I write what I write because it is mine to write. Even if I follow some or a lot of the same tropes and patterns as others, I like to think that somewhere in my work, there is that unique taste that makes it mine.
This took a bit of thinking, but when I thought back to what I’ve been writing, I realized that I like writing about things that aren’t really considered normal in today’s world. I like stories about people who wouldn’t usually just give in to society, like a couple not having an affair when one of them is engaged, or teenagers who don’t just have a hormonal crush. I like writing about the “nice guys” (or gals) who just sort of get the short end of the stick most of the time. I guess it’s my own way of saying, “Here’s to you who are often brushed off, forgotten, or laughed at for having a little more brain or for silently suffering for the sake of others.” I’ve always admired those people.
I see your point, Kate. And, if you were just jumping on the bandwagon, it might be worth it to really consider why the story should be set in a dystopian world. But it sounds like it’s a story that’s already burning (or at least bubbling) inside you.
I think trends will come and go. There will always be an audience for historic fiction, or steampunk horror; it might not stay as huge as it is when it’s “the thing,” but I truly believe that good stories will find a way to float to the top. (I have to do that, just to stay sane.) And, who knows? Your story might launch a NEW dystopian rage! 😀
Thanks for the insight!
Good point, Shade. I believe that, too. The basic plot of a story might not be nothing new, but the way you tell that story will make it unique.
Thanks for commenting!
An interesting observation about your work, spooney. I think it says a lot about what resonates with you. (And, I can see what you mean; those traits are prevalent in even in your fan stuff.)
Thanks for stopping by!