Archive for July 21st 2011

No, I’m not talking about my life, but writing. One of the biggest rules in writing a story is that nothing can go right.

Imagine, for a moment, that your heroes have found the Evil Weasel’s lair, and they sit around for ten pages making up a careful plan as to how they’re going to break in any capture said weasel. Then they go in, and they follow the plan, and it all works perfectly.

Well, what’s the point? Instead of reading the hundred pages where they execute their clever plan and it all goes right, you could just read the ten pages where they made up the plan. In order for that hundred pages to be interesting, it has to go horribly wrong. Not just ‘oh damn, I broke a nail/dropped my favorite coffee cup’ wrong, but so wrong that the reader actually believes they’re going to fail.

In addition to that, unless stupidity is an intentional part of the protagonists’ characters, it has to go wrong despite them making their best attempt to get it to go right. As a reader I want to see the characters do their best to succeed and be thrown back by events, not fail because they decided to walk in the front door with a big flag saying ‘Death to the Evil Weasel’.

This is one of the problems I’ve had and one of the big problems I see with unpublished scripts and stories that I critique; either too much goes right, or when things do go wrong they don’t go wrong for the right reasons or they don’t go wrong enough that I think they’ll actually fail. It’s also been a problem with a number of recent movies, where I never believe that the protagonist is going to fail so the whole movie is one long anticlimax.