Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fighting convention

Like most writers, when I read or watch something that follows the normal rules of storytelling and the conventions of society's expectation, I always think: I would do something different. Wouldn't it be so cool to NOT to let the main character live, NOT to have the girl fall for the bad boy, NOT have a happy ending. Wouldn't it be great to do something different?

Well, not really. You see, those conventions exist for a reason. It's what people expect and what they like. Sure, we all like a new twist on the theme, but we want the same basic theme. We want the good guys to win at the end, we want the boy to get the girl. It's what the collective 'we' wants the real world to be like and ultimately we want that reflected in our stories.

What does that mean for you as a writer? Can you throw in that twist, kill of that character? Maybe. A little breaking of convention works as long as it works as part of a greater holding of the compact. You can't kill off all the characters, you have to give your protagonist some redeeming traits. You can go into left field but you have to come back to center before too long. Otherwise you'll make people unhappy.

In fact, all of this only matters if you want most people to like your story. If you write just for yourself, you can shake things up as much as you want. You might even win some fervent fans with your risk taking. Just don't be surprised when the result is not wildly popular.

When I think of stories I think them up for me. My endings are what I want. Then I stop and think about the reader. If I hope to sell the story, or even share it with random people, then I consider what they might want. My version is still in my head making me happy, but hopefully what I put down on paper will work for others. There's a reason convention exists and the challenge is to change it while meeting it as the same time.

On a side note I want to give a shout out to Story Addict, who not only has a cool and useful blog, but is kind enough to highlight self-pubbed authors (like me) just for the sake of being nice. Please check her site out: Story Addict.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting read, and you make some good points too. Finding the right balance between writing within one's own unique style, yet attracting readers and what they want is a balancing act and art form unto itself. A twist here and there can spice up the storyline. How and when to use a twist is key I guess.