There was an inauguration yesterday. The United States of America swore in a new president.
But. This is a writing blog, so let’s talk about writing.
I may have complained some about how my space fantasy story that I started during NaNoWriMo went off the rails and I wasn’t sure where it was going. I might have been getting words in, but I have been struggling to advance the plot.
This weekend, I took a drive, thought about my story, and realized the problem.
When a story is fighting you, the problem just might be that you’re going the wrong direction. Sometimes, you’re writing the wrong story.
Types of Stories
We’re all familiar with the different types of stories, even if we don’t have the lists memorized. While different people split them up differently, let’s go with this subset of six categories of stories.
- “Human versus human” – Someone is standing in your way, blocking you from achieving your goals.
- “Human versus nature” – A survival tale.
- “Human versus machine” – Technology, at whatever level, might be your undoing.
- “Human versus fate” – Can you fight the gods and/or destiny?
- “Human versus society” – Where you’re fighting ‘the man’, the system, the government, the corporation…
- “Human versus self” – When you really are your own worst enemy
What Was Wrong In Morgan’s Story
For me, I typically write “human versus society”, where the problem is social expectations, or a corrupt government, that sort of thing. That’s my – for lack of a better term – comfort zone.
Which is a bit silly, because in my personal life, I’m the sort that is comfortable being a cog in the wheel. I can rationalize a lot, and I typically go along with authority unless I have a clear reason to fight back. Which doesn’t happen often.
With my space fantasy, I was trying to base the story structure on classic fairy tales… while still having the enemy be a nebulous corporation — or at least a debt to them.
But fairytales thrive on conflict. Well, all stories do. But fairytales thrive specifically on interpersonal conflict.
I was driving down that tree-lined highway in the mountains, thinking about my story and how to get it from where it was to the ending I needed, when the solution dawned on me.
I need an enemy, one close at hand, with motivations and reasons all their own. And I knew exactly who it was, who I’d been trying to reform since the very beginning. That was my mistake.
Not all antagonists can be swayed to the side of the main character. Some are just in it for themselves.
Have you ever been writing the wrong story?
Have you ever read a story that you thought was going to be one type, but ended up being another? Did you like the shift?