(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)
My friend Serdar was discussing why we write and why it’s valuable. If you haven’t read is stuff, scope it out, his Flight of the Vajra is one of my influences to write again.
He talks about why some writing fails at a point, and how writing is a way of modeling.
The tough part is for that model to be properly informed by real human behavior and real-world facts. Most of the bad writing I’ve encountered is either ignorant of the way the world works in its most mechanical aspects, or depicts models of human behavior that are either too flat or too ludicrious to pass for the real thing, or (worst of all) both of those things acting in concert.
He’s right on many flawed works – yet also we see flawed works be enjoyed by people. All of us may enjoy some flawed or just outright shallow stuff – not in the MST3K/Rifftrax way – but we really enjoy them. I know I’ve enjoyed my share of, let us be frank, pandering B.S.
I think some things appeal to people – even with flawed models of behavior and world – due to audience participation.
On the “lowest” level a story may be very flawed, but if it tickles our sweet spots, we enjoy it. Perhaps there are many guilty pleasures here, but also things that may be profound at least in what they tell us, moments of artistic madness. We bring these stories to life because they fit our desires.
Then there are stories that are very trope-filled. Because they’re familiar, we may enjoy them, even when they’re not exactly realistic or believable. Our “suspension of disbelief” is a high-wire act, but because familiar themes are involved, we embrace them. Cultural and media tropes bring these stories to life, and we power them with our belief.
Finally, there are stories and settings that come alive due to the way the creators work. The things we “get” even if they may be alien or bizarre or unfamiliar. These are rare and powerful works at their best. They come to life because the creator makes something believable, even if we may have trouble relating to it, and we bring it to life because we “get” what’s going on.
Perhaps when writing, we should set goals for how we want the work to come to life. Many of us may aspire to the last category, but there may be nothing wrong with a lot of tropes or some pandering if other ethical/personal concerns are addressed.