Royalty in Writing

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Story is King.

That’s become fashionable to say. I don’t know if it was Pixar who started saying it, but I think that’s the first place I heard it articulated that way. The problem is, while it sounds great, it’s an oversimplification. They may mean it to cover everything that goes into writing, but in my eyes story usually means plot primarily, so I generally hear the phrase “story is king” to mean “a tight, well-constructed plot” is the most important thing about writing. I agree, although only just, and I flip-flop a little.

Because while Story might be King, Character is Queen.

And you need both.

It really doesn’t matter how great the story is if the characters are boring or one-dimensional. Sure, that’s how things basically worked for a lot of the pulp era, but the pulp era didn’t last forever. There may have been a few authors who worried about character, but not many when I look back at what I’ve read. It was all about the story, the action. Excitement but no depth. Most stories forgettable unless they’d been sparked by a strange and original idea. And most readers wanted more, still hungry after turning the page to the next piece.

Characters matter.

But if you go too far in the other direction, you fall into he trap that most literary fiction lives in, a meandering journey with no sign posts, nothing really happening, and character interactions not enough to keep you awake. All character and no plot makes for a long, boring read.

Story and Character. You need both together to make good writing.

And that’s hard.

But it’s also what makes writing fun, and challenging, and interesting.

There are other bits, too, because story and character on their own don’t make up all the elements of writing. I have a list, you might expect, but not for today.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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