Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Expectations Or Swerves?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we, as writers, decide what goes into the twists and turns along the road of the stories we create.  Are we truly creative, or are we just giving into the pressure of what society wants us to write?  Are we even aware of this decision?

If you're reading this blog, it's because you love to read(I haven't met a single writer who didn't love to read...after all, didn't we get into writing out of a love of books to start with?).  However, with reading comes a variety of expectations.  We get invested in a storyline and its characters, and we want them to be okay.  Sure, we'll tolerate a little bit of variation along the way, but how much?

I've mentioned before about loving stories that challenge me.  Still, I got to thinking - would I allow such things to really swerve me?  While reading Harry Turtledove's account of how a world would look after a Confederate victory, would I have tolerated anything less than the final defeat of Jake Featherston and the reunification of the country?  In the Thrawn Trilogy, how would I have reacted if Thrawn had managed to defeat the New Republic and bring back the Empire?

The answer, truthfully, is not well.

We all want tension in our books.  I know I love it when a twinge of doubt creeps in and keeps me on the edge of my seat.  However, the reason for that is because such things make the final triumph of the heroes all that much sweeter in the end.  Very few of us would keep reading an author who let the villains win in the end and/or killed off the heroes.  We're wired to root for the good guys, and we get invested in their well being.  With the exception of a few genres, such as horror, which gets leeway because evil triumphant is occasionally expected(otherwise it wouldn't be horror), we want to see that whole "good over evil" thing.

When planning out your book, throw in some swerves, but make sure they serve the result you're shooting for.  In other words, don't be a dick just for the sake of being a dick.  You might find yourself loving that nuanced view, but most of your readers will despise it, and a reader like that rarely buys more than one story.

In the end, we still have to sell, and while tension does that, pulling the chair out from underneath someone doesn't.  I may want the reader to wonder if the chair is there, but I don't want that person to fall on his or her ass.

1 comment:

  1. Oh so true. I hate when I feel like an author threw a curveball into a book JUST to throw off the reader and for no big person. It's really REALLY frustrating.