The Writer’s Contract with the Reader

It has been said that every story has already been told.
‘Nothing is new under the sun.” So goes a Latin proverb.  There are only a limited number of basic myths and archetype stories told over and over.  At least that is the theory.  And I have to admit that a lot of my work falls into the realm of ´Refried.´ Meaning, I am telling stories that are a mix of things that have already been done.

You could say that my novel ´Lobo´ is a 50%/50% blend of ´Lassie´ and the Mexican film ´Amores Perros.´ I’m alright with that.  So where is the line in the sand that determines if a new story is new or is it just a tired old Trope?

I direct you to the new Star Wars movie.  This is not my idea of satisfying story telling.  It is a mish mash of old Star Wars tropes that leaves most intelligent views cold.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about with that term, go to this page.

Judging by the reaction to the new Star Wars film, I’d say the snake has turned and is eating its own tail.
I won’t go on and on about the Star Wars film.  Others have done that for me.
The Force Awakens Sucks on Youtube

So what is my point?  There is a contract between the writer and the reader.  The writer promises to give the reader a satisfying journey over the space of a few hundred pages in which all will be revealed and resolved in a satisfying manner.  (The same could be said about the movie experience)

This is where sucess or failure lies.  There are hundreds of elements that go into writing a good story but if you fail to give the reader a satisfying experience … fail to provide anything more than a series of typical and tired reworkings of previously used plot devices, your chances for recognition or success are very limited.  And let’s remember that you are not just competing with the written word.  You are competing with every story out there from Network television, Netflix, DVD, Comic Books etc.  Anywhere a story can be found.  Why should the reader dedicate hours reading your story if he can get the same semi-satisfaction from an episode of CSI Miami or Friends?

And let’s face it – he has already paid his $10 for a Netflix subscription.  You are asking for his confidence, time AND some of his hard earned cash.

Although dated, I recommend reading ‘Writing Popular Fiction’ by Dean Koontz.  Mr. Koontz is a master of Genre fiction.  I’ve been a fan since I  read his novel ‘Watchers.’

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My point is that you may fall into the trap of writing a stale plot full of tired tropes or you may give it a new, unexpected twist.  It depends on your creativity in part but it also has to do with how well you know the genre you are writing.  Mr.  Koontz’ ‘How to’ book describes the most popular genres (keeping in mind it was written years ago so in some cases it is somewhat dated) and talks about the twists and tropes typically utilized for each.  To be forwarned is to be prepared.  If you can think of a different and original way to tell an old story, your reader will appreciate your work.

If not, you’re just trying to blast yet another bigger and better Death Star out of the sky.

David Gordon Burke
Find my novels here.



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