It has been a while since my last post, but let me get back into this talking about a cliche. This may seem like coming out of left field, but bear with me. I am not a fan of romance, especially not as a the central plot for most of my stories. I have some romantic backstories or subplots but I tread carefully not to let it take over, but that is mostly because of my main genres. Romantic triangles however is something I have studied recently because of how it has affected me in polarized ways. Many romantic stories that have used romantic triangles have both bored me and some have touched me deeply.
Romantic triangles are seen everywhere perhaps because of how common they are in the real world. As with all cliches it should be said that motivation and perspective give them their bad name. By that I mean we often see the worst examples repeated the most. Romantic triangles often give romance a bad name. They give characters bad names and it waters down motivation. I am convinced however, that with the right approach to using this device that you would never be discouraged to use it, but rather carefully aware. Cliches can be used to perfection with the right perspective or if it addresses a theme.
I have seen most romantic triangles play off of one of the worst motivations ever- indecision. Now indecision isn’t a theme many people are fond of. I have indecision every day when deciding about which food I should eat. I am not saying people are likened to those daily struggle of choices, but rather that it can feel that way to the audience. The reality of romantic triangles is lost in most novels since authors have their focus where there is no tension or a false sense of tension. In most of these cases the story is told from the perspective of the party longed after by the other two parties. That is that the focal point of most of these tales are from a girl (usually) having to decide between boy A and boy B and then first making a wrong choice. The plot then is about the fixing of this error or the failure to fix this error. Now there is something somewhat unrealistic about romantic triangles that seem to take precedence in novels and that is that the biggest struggle, the thing authors want from stories, is the whole choice between two people thing. There should be no if you had just moments. What is frustrating to readers is that the authors somehow try and use the worst of the worst when using romantic triangles. Instead of being one between 3 friends (which allows some true conflict in a choice) rather they opt for the newcomer coming between two friends. (cheapening your main character) Now I will show that by using it this way authors are wasting a chance by not using the most realistic drive force in a romance and that is unrequited love. Let me put stories in a question form to help show the importance of perspective and ask you which one sucks?
Should I choose my best friend Scott or the new guy Thomas? vs How will I ever be able to win her heart? vs I lost my best friend, how do I deal with this loss? vs How will he cope with the unrequited love?
One of these plots sticks out like a sore thumb. It has no theme. It is hollow. Did you notice that in each case there was a theme and a closeness lost or love not gained? Characters and relationships are crucial. In some of those plots lies themes of loss, depression, drive to build a relationship and in the typical one lies a choice that breaks a character. Now I understand that characters have flaws but basing an entire premise or central part of your character on the flaw of not being able to choose loses focus on things that in the real world could matter. Loss and gain and potential loss and gain are probably some of the most important things you need in any story. Now even with the worst case of a romantic triangle there springs forth loss that is rarely visited, because someone loses. That is a new starting point and if that is where you start your story it takes a whole new meaning.
I end with a simile. Robert Beaker is competing with Frost & Co for a lucrative business deal with JI Dynamics. Gain and loss. Potential gain and potential loss. Most people will tell this story from the perspective of the newcomer. The guy fighting to get in or even the second company. So I am left with a mystery. If this is clear to see in other plots about money or power, why do we struggle when it comes to love?
It has been a long while since I wrote on this blog. So I am back at it and am also going to finish of my second novel’s first draft.
A friend of mine asked me to write a short story for her birthday, so naturally I started thinking immediately.
“What kind of short story?”
I have written an absurd tale in the past, but knowing that she had also enjoyed some absurd stories I did not think I would be able, but out of the blue an idea popped into my head. This time I had no clue where it came from. I took something my friend loved, turned into an antagonist, and figured out a moral of the story.
Then for the first time in a long while I decided to write in the first person point of view. Usually it is something I avoid in favour of the third person limited point of view, however this would turn out to be good practice for me. When I showed her a sample, she thought it was already a short story. That is, dear reader, because most non writers do not use the word short story like writers do. For them it can be five hundred words and perhaps that is true when short is used adjectivally, but I meant the real deal. I would write her ten thousand words about a man who finds himself stranded and who has to make questionable decisions when a “good” Samaritan shows up.
I am almost at a thousand words now and this is starting to entertain me a lot.
Have you ever written a gift for a friend?
Today I will discuss backstory and why it is very important to a story. Very important. Both backstory and lore are the best ways to display honesty in fiction.
Honesty is camouflage that makes the author disappear. It is what makes stories believable and there is no way to make a protagonist more believable than adding a backstory. You must always have a backstory. Always. It is, however up to you to write the backstory or not, for honesty in fiction affects both reader and writer… even when it is not included.
It is easier to tell a lie believing it than to tell the lie and know it for what it is. By adding a backstory it will be easier for both author and reader to connect to a character even though it might not be included in the novel. Adding it may affect pacing, but go on ahead if you feel it is important to the story.
You can add a backstory in implicit and explicit ways. Keep in mind that there is power in subtlety. Backstories have a way of making characters seem more real, because every human being has a backstory. It may not be grand, but we do have backstories. Another thing backstories accomplish is that it establishes motive. When a character acts, the reader will gasp at certain stages and say that it fits in with who the character is.
In other instances it may be better to hide a backstory. The Joker may be the best example of this as this leaves people with questioning his motives. This establishes his anarchism. He lies about his past, because his main motive is not his past. Most stories have their heroes grounded in past experiences. Some may be related to childhood.
This spine is to a character as lore is to a world. Next time I’ll discuss lore.
What are your thoughts on backstory? When would you include it? Is it important to you? Let me know.
I believe in multiple arcs in stories. When doing a story with round characters, one arc is the minimum for a character. This title may be a reference to math, but believe me stories are anything, but mathematical. It was just a cute way of asking whether you wanted to build all arcs from the bottom.
Sin 0=0. You know the curve (it does not apply to most stories) but stories change and only authors know where arcs end. They surely do not end at the same place… mostly. However if a story has multiple arcs, this title becomes very important. For example one arc is a previously ruined romantic relationship and the main arc has the protagonist stepping up as a hero. Now, you may well want to show the relationship for starting at ground zero, however you have limited time and space your story may not be about that relationship. Here you will be dealing with backstory.
It all depends on the author. If stories’ character and relationship arcs were to be put on a single graph you would have some weird form of modern art. It would look just like a jungle of ups and downs. However if two of these points are dealt with in a story and their difference is great…well we have a new ball game. Say arc A and arc B are both developing, but arc B is rising and arc A s dropping. Here you have some serious internal and external conflict going on. Dramatic kaboom!
When those lines meet. Man get ready for some hard hitting stuff. To most people reading this, what I am saying may not make sense, but that is since I am vague and I am only trying to ramble my journey. Stories can not be put into boxes. That is a lie we tell ourselves to keep us safe. Many authors have a formula and one arc and it works for them. All these terminology are just made up as well.
Maybe I am imagining another dimension, but hey… this is fiction.
Keep on writing, dreaming and plotting. Next up I will discuss the spine of a story. Do not worry…. it won’t be vague like this.