Culturally, we’re in a dark age. Think about that. All the TV and movies we watch, all the things we consume on the internet and social media, all the music we listen to, all the stories we read are predicated on one of or both things: Sadness and pain, or harshness and aggression.
Our whole culture is designed to run this way, and there’s a deep wisdom to it all. As a culture, we use the power of negativity, pain, adversity to improve ourselves constantly, to evolve and push existence forward because inherently we know comfort means death.
Comfort, is our mechanism of killing off the weak, which is why we as a society have become proficient at delivering things to people. Books, food, drink, furniture, electronics, you name it, we can deliver it.
Okay, so what does this have to do with writing? A lot, actually. Pick up a book, any book and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Every story is predicated on sadness and pain or harshness and aggression, on using negativity, conflict and adversity as a means to make us better, stronger, and even happier people for it.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, a saying we’ve all heard for our entire lives. The point isn’t to get to the finish line because the finish of one thing is the beginning of another. it’s the journey that makes us feel emotion, it’s the journey that puts us through trials and tribulations, it’s the journey that beats the shit out of us until we’re on our knees praying to a power higher than ourselves, it’s the journey that shows us what we’re capable of.
So, when writing a story in our Dark Age, the real purpose is to set up a series of trial and tribulations that make your protagonist (and antagonist, in a sense) stronger and better people for it. A good, great, story is predicated on a perilous and arduous path to a promise-land that may or may not be there when the character finishes the journey.
It’s the hurt, the pain, the loss, the suffering, the tears, the anger, the aggression, the uncertainty of it all that pushes us to elevate our game. That takes us from being counted out to counted on, that wakes up the warrior spirit inside us all and forces us to either take what we want or be forever denied.
When you look at any story, you will see all of this. It’s not a bad thing, not a thing to mourn over. This is a hopeful thing. In fact, this is the best thing ever because if the world ever became perfect, it would be the death of us all.
So, when you’re writing your story, remember the hidden commandments:
- Only trouble and conflict is interesting
- Your character must be weak at some point in the story
- the story must reflect the culture on a large, existential scale
- negativity is paramount, with a sprinkle of positivity
- it’s not the destination, it’s the journey
- everything that can go wrong, must go wrong
- pain is just a form of tough love (no pain, no gain)
- all characters must have human traits, even if they’re another race of species
- The only memorable characters are flawed characters
- no conflict equals death, comfort equals death as death is the nothingness we all return to.
Well, that’s my spiel on the subject.
Till next week . . .