What comes before story?

When you are reading or writing a story, what comes before the story?

Well, if you’re a plotter, you might answer “an outline,” which is a rather literal interpretation of that question.  Or “character development” or “theme” or what have you.  But no, that’s not where I’m headed.

When you are reading or writing a story, what should take precedence before the story?

What, when you are reading or writing a story, is more important than the story?

  • Appropriateness of plot.
  • Appropriateness of language.
  • Appropriateness of characters.
  • Appropriateness of morals.
  • Appropriateness of choices of the characters.
  • Appropriateness of tone.
  • Appropriateness of ending.

Are any of these things actually more important than the story?  They should be in service to the story, yes, but are they more important than the story?

No.  If you find that a story calls for a certain type of plot, language, character, morality, character choices, tone, or ending, and you don’t provide exactly that, then you’ve made the story lose integrity.

Should Harry Potter have used magic?

Some people don’t think so.

Should A Clockwork Orange have used the language, characters, or character choices (i.e., extremely violent ones)?

Some people don’t think so, either.  But A Clockwork Orange, whether you like it or not, has integrity.

Should people be forced to write about things they don’t want to write about?

No…but neither should they be standing up and saying that nobody else should, either.

Don’t betray your stories…but don’t ask other authors to betray theirs, either.

Write your own stuff and stop editing other people’s (unless you’re an editor, obviously).

More than likely, if it’s good, it sells (either traditionally or indie).  And if it doesn’t, then perhaps it’s not because someone is oppressing you.  There’s a touchpoint that I use to determine whether someone’s being an ass:  If they end with “and therefore, our main concern should be making sure that everyone is treated fairly,” then their hearts are in the right place.  But if they end with “and therefore, we’ll do whatever it takes to get what we deserve,” then I know that the preceding opinions are just a bunch of hooey.  When people talk about shutting down other people’s opinions (rather than just disagreeing with them), then I know they’ve lost their ability to empathize with real people and are just writing cardboard cutouts in a cardboard cutout story–no matter where they are, politically or spiritually.

Their stuff isn’t worth reading.

If you can’t be bothered to write someone who is fundamentally different than you are with empathy–then go home, because you’re not a writer.  You’re Darth Helmet playing with his little figurines.




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