So, I read a quote the other day that really struck me. The quote was, “If a man should write to entertain himself, he cannot fail but to entertain others.”
Dunno who originally said it (if you know, tell me and I’ll attribute it), but I realized something fundamental about the way that I write.
I write in terms of a single, unified story. There is a hero, he walks a path, fights against iniquity, and wins. I make an outline wherein I list each of those goals, and all the sub-goals that exist on the path of getting him from point A to point B. Along the way, I have him talk with others, consider the bigger questions around what he’s doing, that sort of thing. Above all, though, I had every scene advance that one storyline toward the end goal.
In the end, I think that’s why my stories are so short. There is one story, and everything has to advance that story. Whenever people have told me the stories are too short, I ask, “But did you like the story?” Typically, they will shrug and say yes because they know that the story itself was good, even if it was direct.
I shouldn’t be doing that. I shouldn’t be letting a good story be a dodge for writing less than I could. People don’t read for plot, or else Twilight never would have happened (sorry, couldn’t resist). People want to feel like they are living in the world, and living is more than just walking through the goalposts of fate.
I think I need to play more. I think I need to have more sub-plots. I think I need to look at each scene and say, “That’s the direction that the story should go, but in this scene it would be a lot cooler if, say, the police break in and arrest everybody, or one of the characters snaps and starts firing at shadows”.
I think I need to spend more time thinking about how much cooler every individual scene could be, without worrying about mucking up the timeline.