As a writer, I’ve been rather dismissive of the creative writing industry’s advice that character motivation is key. But of course I want to write fiction that will keep readers engaged. Then Charli shows me (see the comments on this post) that I’ve actually written a classic hero’s journey; would my writer’s journey have been easier if I’d recognised this? Or did I have to work out for myself that that was the right way to go?
As a reader, I’m sometimes disappointed with thrillers that privilege plot over character depth. Yet genre fiction is much more popular than the literary fiction I prefer to read and write. As Sanjida Kay said about moving from literary fiction to thrillers, the latter requires the writer to follow a well-trodden path with specific calling points along the way. But these, of course, come from the reader’s expectations of the journey they’ve embarked upon. They might not know exactly where they’re headed, but they know the kind of ride they’ve signed up for. Thriller readers are looking for more of a twisty-turny mountain track than a straight run down a Roman road.
To push the analogy further, choosing a genre is like choosing a mode of transport: we’re setting out on a journey, but is it going to be by plane, car or train? By bicycle, donkey or our own two feet and who is holding the wheel or the reins? How much can we tolerate switching vehicles or setting off wearing sandals when we’d have been more comfortable in walking boots?
As a reader, how much do you like to be signposted to your destination and how flexible are you about the means of getting there?
For my reflections of the journeys I’ve taken in other authors’ fiction over the past month, just click on the link.
You might also be interested to see my new How I Write Q&A courtesy of Lady Nicci.