Uncle Josh has a “Well, Duh” moment about writing
Uncle Josh is supposed to go out and lift, and then walk to the library, so of course I ran through my Facebook feed and found this post shared by my friend John Burridge. In short, the post compares Amy Pond’s basic arc with that of Twilight’s Bella Swan (if I got the name wrong, I don’t care. I’m writing this based on sciolism). The two characters have the same things happen: They must choose between two men of different species, there is a baby that grows incredibly quickly and marries the the other man.
Uncle Josh says “pshaw!”
Never mind that, as I understand Twilight, Bella’s baby grows unnaturally fast, whereas Dr. River Song grew up “normally” and it only looked fast to the story because of time travel.
No, this points to a simple “well, duh” truth: story arcs are limited. Character counts. Love triangles exist all over literature. So do older men marrying younger women. These things happen. Compare the characters, and the differences emerge.
As I understand Twilight (and blessedly very little at that), Bella is the kind of girl who moped and tried suicide if she didn’t have a boyfriend. Amy’s attitude is “whose arse to I have to kick to get my boyfriend/husband/Time Lord” back. Bella is seen by the men as a prize, or punching bag, or meal, or penis-storage unit. Amy is a partner that makes life worth living.
We tell the same arcs all the time. TV is incredibly predictable because the shows tell the same four or five stories over and over again. It’s the characters that matter. Ask any fan of Castle. I don’t know anyone who watches Castle that actually cares about the murders. They don’t matter. Murder is a device to let two characters be over-the-top cute with each other. Even the season-long arcs on Castle are familiar and predictable. But that’s okay. We spend time with the characters.
Of course, if I don’t translate that understanding into my writing, I will continue to not sell.