March 21, 2014 by musehick
There is no such thing as a story that is not a human interest story, and anyone that thinks there is has taken a wrong turn somewhere. Why is this the truth? Because even if you were to be churning out a story about bricks you are talking to the human being that has picked up your book. Strangely, people do forget this.
What happens when you unlearn this lesson? You turn out boring banal uninteresting stuff that is like a mouthful of dry toast. Anything that constitutes a so-called plot-driven story at the expense of the characters is something that may be flash and bang and whallop, but it is also fashion and fad and flash in the pan. Why? Because fireworks do not linger in the memory – they are impressive, sure, but if they have no effect upon the humans within their vicinity then they constitute little but a trick of the light.
I love the movie Adaptation, and I agree with its attack on a certain kind of story. Lego writers, those who count the nipples on the bricks and build it according to paint-by-numbers instructions, have little to offer but gristle-filled burgers in doughy buns … it gets a little hard to swallow something that is plagiarised to the point where you can see the ghosts of a million disenfranchised writers spinning in their graves. Watered down, piss-thin gruel that has all the nutritional value of a ramen noodle.
Science fiction is not about robots and rocket ships. Crime novels are not about the murders. Those things are the window dressing that offer indicators of where you are, but the real meat of any story is, what does it do as it moves around the human players? I try to keep this front and centre of any story, whether it has a driving plot or whether it is a story of ideas. It all needs some blood in its veins, some heart – it needs soul, or else what is it? Vanilla ice cream, that’s what.