That’s right. The writer’s story has committed suicide and the author, a.k.a, the loved one, doesn’t know why. Her plot is fluid, her characters are developing and the stakes are being raised with each new page. So, when the tragedy happens, she’s surprised because she didn’t see it coming, but the reader did, why? Simple. The reader isn’t a loved one. And, as that distant outsider who wants to care about what happens in the story, the reader is able to pinpoint the exact moment the author turned her back and the death occurred.
I’m speaking about acceptable levels of personal influence versus concrete intrusion of our opinions in what we write. Here’s the scenario: Heroine loves the environment. Her mission in life is to see that nothing bad (if she can help it) happens to it. Okay, that explains why she’s face planted in front of the bulldozers that are pushing forward with development plans. She’s hoping to stop the desecration of the nearly extinct trees she loves so much. Great. Got it. She has a heart and nine out of ten readers will connect with her on some level because of this passion.
But then, her ‘save the environment’ moment becomes an unsightly soapbox. A huge platform that she stands on and proceeds to awkwardly preach from one page to the next. Now, here’s the kicker. The story is still being propelled forward, but really, at this point, it’s on life support because the characters are developing into people that are hard to like. So even though the stakes are being raised – big time – the reader isn’t interested because they have no investment in the characters.
*Enter the sharp object to the wrist. Let’s call the time: Story death here.*
So, I’m wondering. Does anyone else see a danger of inserting a controversial ideology that they are passionate about into their hero or heroine’s makeup? Oh, I know that an author’s tenets and beliefs bleed through the pages. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m focusing in on that one thing. That one political phrase of ownership spoken by a hero or heroine, such as, “I’m a Democrat or I’m a Republican.” Or maybe the heroine cries, “What’s wrong with that? I think socialism is a positive thing.” That’s what I’m talking about.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen on the rare occasion where these potentially controversial statements work because they’ve been woven into the plot subtly with a finesse that distracts the reader and allows them to overlook their differences of opinions on the subject. Now the key as to why that works is simple. It was part of the plot not the obsession of one of the main characters the reader is supposed to adore.
Do you guys agree? Disagree? Because I gotta tell you. I was reading yesterday, when something I tripped over on a page got me to wondering about all this. It was one small sentence. One tiny statement. Six little words. And yet, it was big enough for me to go, “Hell, no.” (and don’t ask because I ain’t saying.)
Personally? I think of the stories I write like they’re a person at a party. My story is exposed to all manner of people with varying likes, dislikes and ideas. So if my story focuses in too narrowly on a controversial topic and beats it to death page after page, I know it risks being pegged as that pompous ass expounding in the corner that party goers want to avoid at all costs. I don’t want that. So, I’ve decided. Now that my stories have been invited to the party their sole purpose for attending will be to be fun and be entertaining.
For those of you who’ve been fortunate enough to commandeer an invitation. Do you agree with this? And for those of you who haven’t YET. Have you thought about how you’re going to handle your invitation to the party?