Killed The Cat Dept.


The other day, apropos of nothing, I put on the remake of Get Carter so I could have some background chatter while working on something. I'd seen the movie before, and seeing it again reminded me of a little thing I like to call the Law of Incurious Storytelling.

First off: the movie's bad. Oh, sure, it's got John C. McGinley in a great supporting role (he steals every scene he's in, and even a few he's not in), and I have no particular allergy to Sylvester Stallone — but the movie freely disregards the implications of things it even takes the time to stop and comment on.

Random example. At one point Stallone's character is told that if he kills a certain someone, he's going to spend the rest of his life running. Fine. Guess what happens? He kills the guy — and the movie ends with not so much as a soupçon, a suggestion that he is indeed going to spend the rest of his life running. He goes back home presumably to continue business as usual. You could, I guess, cough up some excuse that this is a hard-boiled nihilist noir (the way the excellent Michael Caine original was) and that we can hand-wave some of that in the name of mood and atmosphere — but there's a difference between that and just plain sloppy storytelling.

Maybe better to say incurious storytelling.

One thing I constantly push myself to do when I'm working on one of my books is to ask hard questions about the implications of any one thing that happens. If you kill a man, or let him die, 99% of the time that's not something you can just let float past you under the bridge. Use it as fuel for something: an insight, a realization, a disagreement — something that shows your characters for what they are.

Fiction may be about the exceptions in life and not the rules, but that's a lousy excuse to invoke if you pass up the opportunity to make your story that much deeper. The rule goes double for SF and fantasy, of course: the whole premise of most of that stuff is to, as Theodore Sturgeon put it, ask the next question. If you're not doing that, then all you're doing is creating a style, not a world.


Tags: dharma writing




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This page contains a single entry by Serdar in the category Uncategorized / General, published on April 23, 2010 3:59 PM.

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