Please Kill Me,
It’s hard to say what makes the perfect story. Some people will tell you there’s a formula. I’m sure that most of you have heard some variation or another of “The Hero’s Journey” or “Story-Circles” or any other kind of evidence that supports that idea. I take heed to the general need for structure and narrative arc. The question beyond that, the meat of the story is an entirely different thing all together.
Along with the tried and true advice, some folk will also insist that every “good” story needs a handful of qualities. Romance. Crime. Intrigue. Clarity. Grit. Humanity. Blah-blah. Essentially, that kind of advice only targets an ideal demographic. There is no such thing. Truth be told, we aren’t writing the bible here. Your audience likely aren’t solely literary Gods with stone-footed beliefs and conservative creative attitudes.
Art is not solely the awareness and implementation of the structured ‘ways of old’. It’s the mindful BREAKING of that structure—at least, to me. Your target should be to tell the most incredible story you can while adhering to the laws of comprehension (let’s face it, we’ve got to respect the language), but boundless in its ambition, focus, and originality. You should want your audience to embrace that originality, as opposed to you conforming to the perceived status quo or genre. (They’re mostly temporary favorites, anyway).
My own thoughts on the “sacred balance” aside, I think that it’s generally bad business to even attempt to please everyone. Some, sure. Most, why not? But ALL! We can’t even agree on the best Pixar movie. Aim for it, if you must. BUT avoid when possible. Saner writers have gone batshit trying to stroke the stubby phallus of mass appeal. Find your own way.
Rather than holding myself to the unreachable standards of what’s been done, I’ve developed a new way of creating and assessing potential material. I eschew the ‘common-sense’ tactic of researching what’s being bought. I toss away the obvious/socially-relevant narratives. I forget the teachings of better writers (for this particular beginning). And I ignore the lustful and seductive draw of pop-culture favorites (looking at you, Zombie-writers). Instead of all of that, I look for a truth.
It should be said, my motivations for writing may be different than yours. Sure, some of you may do this for money. Others may do it for posterity. Some are bored and others still just like the idea of calling themselves an ‘author’. If I’m being honest, I don’t really give a shit about any of that. Like the core of you—the ones who can’t sleep at night without thoughts of coffee and your WIP—I do this because the stories that I want to tell have yet to be written (and the demons won’t let me drink unless I’m writing them #SoberSorta).
Anyway, I find a truth. Sometimes, this is an internal truth—some deeply held belief that I’ve yet to verbalize. Other times, it’s a societal truth (mostly an observation that I boil down to objective perspective). And other times still, it’s some words of wisdom picked up from somewhere—things like “Love is Blind,” “Greed is Good,” or “Wipe well. Flush twice.” I take that verbalized idea and attempt to stretch the concept to its extreme.
Here’s where I decide who the characters are. From them, I build a world—Questions like: “Well, why would they be that way,” “What kind of leaders do they have,” “What kind of laws/rules would they abide by,” and “Do they get laid?” (#Giggidy). All of these details and factors blend into the REAL questions. 1. What do my characters want? 2. What’s stopping them? And 3. How does the ‘truth’ apply? All of this takes place before I’ve even written a word.
Sure, we could go on forever about process. For every one of us, there’s a unique method. The point was never to do more than suggest another way of finding your story. Another way of differentiating yourself from the graveyard of attempted pop-authors, who’ve been wading in the sandpit of mediocrity since their first draft. I don’t believe that lack of talent is always the problem. Sometimes, it’s just a lack of originality and a rusted approach at creation.
Again, you can’t please everyone. If you’re going to spend this much time on something, it’s best that you try to please yourself (#Giggidy) and create something new.
The perfect story is the one you’re happy with. If we’re lucky, then sometimes it’s also the one we write.
Until Next Time,
Welcome to the depths of chaos. After exploring themes of humanity and destruction in the previous two installments, Antwan Crump furthers the “A Collection of Things” series with six thrilling new tales that redefine life, death, desire, and consequence. Do we dare to face the darkness or will it devour us before we can question its purpose?