It’s been about a year since I last wrote about some lies about writing. Well, that’s not entirely true because it was more like a rant about the lies authors tell you. Now, after a year of deep thinking, mixed with a splash of comedic chaos and a heavy amount of sarcasm, I present to you the Lies about Storytelling.
1. People Need a Hero
Not anymore, they don’t. Sure, back in the day, heroes were the standard when it came to main characters. That’s why Joseph Campbell established and sculpted what’s called The Hero’s Journey. That was when the world had morals and some type of concept of good and evil. We were honorable back then, in stories that is.
However, that’s no longer the case. Now we want villains to have a backstory and to be relatable. We want to sympathize with the bad guy. The villain, rather the antagonist, should be judged “bad” by the SYSTEM. For example, look at the Disney+ show “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Spoilers, by the way, for those that haven’t seen the show yet.
Basically, the antagonists of the plot are deemed “terrorists” by the establishment because they were forced out of their homes when everyone came back from the Blip (half of the world’s population suddenly coming back into existence). The antagonists resort to violent acts in order to get what they want. However, we’re explicitly told not to call them terrorists by Falcon (now the new Captain America) and that the establishment has to “do better.” It’s a very cringy moment on television, and a ham-fisted attempt at delivering a political agenda, but hey that’s television for you these days.
Nothing is black and white anymore. Nothing is purely good and evil. The blurrier the line, the better. If your hero makes your readers feel uncomfortable because of their moral code clashes with the reader’s nonexistent one, then you might as well start hitting that delete key.
Moral of the story: Bring your “heroes” down to our level to sell some books.
2. Load a Blank into Chekhov’s Gun
Everybody likes surprises these days. In my experience, expecting the unexpected is great but if it’s something that’s expected then there’s no fun when you spring it on the readers in the third act of the story. Who cares about buildup anymore? Who has time with all that foreshadowing and subtly crafting mystery? Remember the film “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” when Aragorn pops up with that ship full of ghost warriors? Remember the surprise and look of pure terror on the face of the orcs? Now, imagine if you didn’t see the scene where Aragorn forces those ghoul troopers into servitude. You’d be about as surprised as those orcs. And wouldn’t that be a good thing? Sure, it might not make any sense, but it sure would shock the audience. And sure, if there was any backlash from the keyboard warriors then I’m sure the studio could print a comic book that covered that part.
3. Don’t worry about Finishing
This might be a controversial one, but it’s one I wholeheartedly believe in. You don’t have to finish the series. Maybe you’ve written the fifth book in a seven-part series and you’re at the point where you just don’t know how to end it. What makes the problem worse is that the series has been wildly successful, and readers are clamoring for the next one. You’ve already told them it would be seven books. All the Reddit boards are already giving theories on how the series will end. And wouldn’t you know it, but the television show based on the series ended and people just absolutely hated that ending so you really can’t head in that direction. Alternatively, whatever you do end up pumping out will never meet what the theorists came up with and if you do write something along those lines, then they’ll just accuse you of plagiarism.
It’s one of those classic Rock-You-Hard Place scenarios. In this case, my suggestion is this: just don’t finish the series. No one ever said you actually have to write the rest of the books. You’ve already made trunk loads of cash on all the other books, television rights, book talks, and everything else. Heck, if you’re really ambitious you could finish the series and wait to publish them until you’re dead. That way, people might hate them, but you won’t have to be alive to hear about how they could finish the series in a more fulfilling manner.
4. Agenda Spewing Characters
Have you watched the latest Star Trek shows? There are a couple of episodes where they take on this evil organization that cages people and ships them off to another country. That’s right, it’s Immigrations and Custom Enforcement that are the bad guys in Star Trek: Picard.
There’s a great YouTube channel that does a great job calling out these issues, view their latest review here.
Sure, you could tell your story about time and space traveling heroes going to a completely different planet and overthrowing a system of government that suppresses a minority. But why waste all of that time and effort trying to be subtle in the hopes that your viewers will understand the message? It sure didn’t work with all those disaster films of the early 2000’s. We’re still destroying the planet.
Besides, consumers these days don’t want to be given something they have to think about. They don’t want to look for the hidden message. Just bash them over the head with your political and social agendas. It might not make for good storytelling, but as long as you get your point across.
So, if you couldn’t tell by now, this was sarcasm. Webster’s Dictionary defines sarcasm as: harsh, cutting, or bitter derision, often using irony to point out the deficiencies or failings of someone or something. For example, Jim uses sarcasm heavily in this week’s rant because he’s trying to get his point across while trying to be funny.
Hopefully, you didn’t really take these to heart. Basically, do the opposite and you should be fine. Until next week, keep calm and write on!
Categories: Mastering the Craft