Bucking the Formula

So, I’ve been sick the past few weeks and when I’m sick, I read things that don’t really challenge me to think too much.  So, the result is that I’ve read about one paperback Highlander or supernatural romance a day for the past two weeks.  I don’t want to lay around and watch television, but I also don’t want to require too much of my brain. 🙂

There is entertainment value in these books for sure, however they are all SO predictable.  There is a formula that they all follow.  The two meet, and it is instant dislike.  Then, somehow they kiss, then vow to never have it happen again.  However, at this point, they cannot deny that they are drawn to each other.  Something happens to pull them apart and they realize they can’t live without each other, they come back together and live happily ever after.

I’ll admit…it’s nice to know how the story is going to end, and those that are well written still provide the tension of “Oh no!  Will they reconcile?”  But still…

Honestly, all books are formulaic.  At least the mass marketed books are, but even most novels follow a formula for their genre.  Even though I threw A Tale of  Two Cities across the room when I read it in high school as Sydney Carton pretends to be Darnay and goes to the guillotine out of love for Lucie, “It is a far, far better thing that I do…” the truth is that I was satisfied with his sacrifice, and in the end, readers demand satisfaction.

So, I’ve been thinking lately about my own writing.  Many of my stories are formulaic, however, I have a few that I’ve started that I want to end differently.  I don’t want to follow the formula.  I want to write a story that challenges people.  It’s okay if people get mad and throw the book.  I’ve made them think.  I’ve made them feel

What if the protagonist kills someone in cold blood and doesn’t feel bad?  What if the protagonist has an affair and leaves a happy marraige to be with the lover?  What if the protagonist does something terrible and doesn’t “make up for it” at the end?  Are they still considered the protagonist?  Can the audience feel for the person?  Can the audience see that humans struggle and that in the real world, people don’t always do the moral thing, and even those people can go on to be happy.  In these cases, can we call them the protagonist?  Are they still the hero of the story if they’ve done something which we find morally reprehensible? 

Maybe that would be the challenge.  Writing a story like this where the protagonist does something that most readers would find horrific, yet they find themselves supporting or at least understanding him/her anyway.  It would take some crafty writing to pull it off.

Also, I think it comes down to the question that all writers ask themselves.  For whom do I write?  For me?  For the pleasure of writing?  For the joy of crafting, creating, molding characters in a story that we think is challenging and interesting?  Or, do we write for/to an audience?  What is the goal of the writing?

I don’t really have any answers today. 

However, it’s something that I’m really pondering these days and it is entirely possible that my new stories may start to go in a different direction…just to see. 🙂


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