I started studying literary construction in high school. I had an interesting AP teacher, and we did a lot of novel-analysis. There was a shift in my mind during this period; I found, shortly after I learned about foreshadowing, symbolism, and theme that poorly-written books were boring to read.
What Makes A Book Long-Lasting?
I started thinking a lot about what made a book worthwhile, because I wanted to write books, and I wanted to be as sure as I could that my books were not boring.
Because Who Wants To Write A Boring Book?
There’s a wonderful scene in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina where the young man, the earnest one who is thinking about Christianity, tells a story about seeing two mature men argue over a point of doctrine. The young man says that they go back and forth, over and around, but that every time they come near the actual question–the real crux of the issue, of whether God is real, and whether Jesus is a person who counts or not, they would swerve away from the point into more innocuous details. He found their disingenuous way of speaking irritating.
I’ve Never Read War And Peace, And I Probably Never Will
I don’t know if I’m getting cynical in my old age (relative), or if I’m less imaginative than I used to be, but I find that many novels avoid the central question, which, to me, is: Why does this matter?
Because The Meaning Of Life Makes Good Fiction
What is a book saying? Really saying? What do the situations, characters, and conclusions mean, and how do they correlate to me, and to life as it is right now? Essentially, I ask myself, what is the moral relevance of the story?
Right And Wrong, Good And Bad
I guess this might sound kind of overblown for a fantasy or science fiction story, but the most enduring stories, for me, in both genres are always those that address real questions, and that don’t shy away from intellectually rigorous philosophy.
I Don’t Care For Nietzche
The first point at which we arrive is death; who dies, and what is the meaning, and the cost, of violence? What effect does violence have on those who inflict it, and what internal judgements have the characters made, within themselves, about the need for killing?
Moral Arithmetic, For Characters!
It is possible to write a fantasy or science fiction story without physical violence, but a world without emotional violence (which is as real as the other kind) results in the sort of eerie dystopia that The Giver or 1984 shows us. The surface of seeming-harmony will eventually peel back, and below is revealed a viciousness, and a ruthlessness that can be shocking (and make great fiction).
Because There’s Nothing Like A Solid Dystopia
There is a balance, and a harmony to human affairs. If you are going to write about a completely alien world and culture, you still have to find some way to make it understandable to us as readers, which means you must translate whatever elements of their relation to each other into terms we, as a violent people, will understand.
But We Aren’t Talking About Aliens Right Now
Our first framework for meaningful plotting is the way we use violence. Who kills, and what do they think of when they kill? It is pertinent to remember that if you do not make choices for your fiction, your subconscious self will make those choices for you, and they will likely be immature and unready for critical examination on an intellectual level.
Hopper used a device in the top of a super-shiny, latest model flying vehicular unit with wheels, which had been taken from a lot next door and covered really fast with paint.
Fog impeded his view as he piloted the very advanced, very impressive craft into the grimy, full air.
“Hey, Maya, where is our new target?” The in-car communicator malfunctioned willfully. Hopper put his ear against his sleeve, activating some technology in his face. “Maya, you there?”
Hopper slammed his fist onto the top of the hover car. The engine hummed to life, and he jumped into the vehicle and bolted straight up into the air.
He shifted into the left windstream, and the car shot like an arrow through the steaming clouds of chemicals that lay in spreading blankets over the city.
“Maya, where next?” he asked. The speaker made a rustling crackle, and then died. Hopper tipped his ear against his shoulder, and scrubbed the skin-grafted phone over his jacket. “Maya, can you hear me?”
Those Examples Had No Killing In Them!
Let us remember, as we pursue our fiction goals, that no one cares as much as we do, and there are always more stories to tell. Tell one, and then tell another one, and think about life while you do so. And make sure you aren’t killing people wantonly in your fiction, because . . . well, just because.
You’re reading a blog by Victor Poole. My books are here. My dragon is taking a long time to draw, but he looks really cool.