We’ve all read it, the ‘Traditional Plot’ – Good Guy meets Good Girl, Bad Guy/Girl tries to intervene, Good Guy and Good Girl overcome all obstacles, defeat Bad Guy/Girl and live happily ever after. Right? This is the age old story, the epitome of good fiction (if written well, that is). However, what happens if/when Good Guy, the character you’ve been rooting for the entire story, reveals himself overall to become Bad Guy? And, to add insult to injury, the Bad Guy reveals himself to be the Good Guy? Can the writer still satisfy the readers’ expectations with such an abrupt change?
Writers around the world and throughout the centuries have been struggling with writing stories, telling tales, that both satisfy and surprise their readers. Some writers have used twisting plot shifts and surprise endings to their advantage – for example George R.R. Martin’s heroes are rarely the victors and his villains are frequently the triumphant, or Jacqueline Carey worlds are often harsh and bitter while managing to find small threads of joy and beauty; while other writers stumble over the intricacies needed to defy convention, chuck the traditional, and say “Woah, they won’t expect this!”
So how does an author walk this finely drawn line? Especially a relatively unknown author. Is it wise to defy tradition and say, “I’m going to create a story that defies every known convention I can pull out of my writer’s cap.”?
Many authors I know have chimed in on the matter. And the lot seems to be equally divided. In Camp #1, some writers disagree with defying convention, stating fairly obvious reasons, the old addage, of not rocking the boat. Tradition works, plain and simple. Readers dig Good Guys hooking up with Good Girls and Bad Guys being defeated in horrifyingly brilliant displays of vengeance/justice. Agents/publishers may not appreciate centuries of tradition being overthrown at the whim of a presumptuous would-be author, after all. In Camp #2, the rest believe that chucking tradition is exactly what is required of new and budding authors to shine out from the depths of the slush pile. Their belief? Editors/agents/publishers have seen and read the same ‘tried and true’ tale of Boy-Meets-Girl, almost-loses-Girl-to-Second-Boy, before-overcoming-and-living-happily-ever-after dog and pony show. By switching up the same-ol’, same-ol’, the blossoming writer may have the unique opportunity to grab an agent/publisher by the balls and make them stand up and take notice.
Of course, I have my own opinion on the matter. I’m a grab ’em by the balls and make ’em sing your name kind of person/writer! :big grin: But I’ll admit that I enjoy snuggling down with a good, traditional tale of Boy meets Girl, meets Second Boy, defeats Second Boy, and lives happily ever after. But I’m always thrilled by the story that grabs me, sucks me in, and then completely throws me off the trail by doing something totally unexpected! To me, it seems, those reads are rare jewels and are, often, the books I keep floating around instead of exchanging.
Naturally, everyone has their own opinion, and I welcome yours. Let me know what you like in a story, and what your thoughts are on today’s topic. Do you welcome the satisfaction of a tried-and-true tale of Good Guy/Bad Guy/Good Girl, or do you like it when the story throws you a reversal and makes you question the morality of each character?