or Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea is Redbull

I love visual works, you may have noticed as much as I read, I’ll watch movies and read comics. I recently started an anime where the first episode began with a fight scene. Right off the bat we saw how five characters (it’s always five) reacted to stress, battle, blood and the adrenalin of a fight. We didn’t get an immediate post-baddie let-down. They did have a discussion eventually and more introductions of auxiliary characters, but three things struck me.

1)      It opened with a fight. This is “current market sales 101.” We can’t take the time to set a scene or give history. Start with a bang! A fight, a kidnapping, or if you watch tv a rape or murder. Then move on to backstory in a flashback or conversation about what came before. I mentally make fun of modern books when they open this way, just as I did this ill-fated anime.

a) Give me a character to love before you throw her/him in front of a bus.
b) Tell me what’s outside the window before someone blasts it in.

gaston1 copy2)   Too many works rely on easy characters we all know and have been told to love. Shy boy. Outgoing femme but butch girl. Sweet girl and smart, reclusive boy. Then we have our known outsiders; I’m going to stop. You know the cliches.

a) Complicate the stories. Savor the flavor with complex people. You love complex characters, so do we readers.
b) Stew in the world. characters affect and are effected by the doings around them.

3) Even trite plots or character motivations can be made more interesting with a little forethought.

a) Proving a parent wrong/overthrowing the system doesn’t have to be a teen book. Are you writing chic lit? Is the system today’s zodiac? For the love of writing, don’t make it that obvious, though.
b) Save the world comes in many flavors. Order the sampler and decide your favorite for these characters.
c) Revenge stories are best served interesting.

I’m seeing this over and again in the books and stories written in the past four years. Here I am: mocking you in my head for selling your story in the current style and not writing for your reader. Your real reader.  That’s all I have to say for today. I’m going to go read some Annie Proulx and Kazuo Ishiguro and revel in stories told right, not told for sales.