Art mirrors life.
There. I’ve said it. If what you put on the page strays too far off from what your readers expect, then you have a lot of work trying to explain yourself. If you explain too much, you’ll lose your crowd. Also, just as in life, your protagonist must make decisions.
Decisions are central to a narrative, just as they are essential in life.
Duh, you say. Of course.
No, it’s no duh. People have trouble making decisions, I know I do. Your character in your story needs to make decisions, even if they are seemingly minor, because decisions reveal character.
God knows I’ve made some bad decisions in my day. I’d like to say I’ve learned from them, and I’ve progressed as a person, but some days I wonder. Of course, I think I’ve made some pretty good decisions, too. See photo above. There’s a story there.
On that day me and my guys captured a mountain of ammo and bomb making supplies from the bad guys. It wasn’t easy, but the job got done. What decision did I make, you wonder.
One of the hats I wore was Counter Improvised Explosive Device team leader, or the C-IED guy. We captured a ton of explosives, so it was a bit of a question what we should do with the junk. An option was to dump it all in a field and have one of the circling Apaches drop a Hellfire on it.
It would have disposed of the ordnance.
In my opinion, it would have also toppled a few structures and shattered every pane of glass within half a mile. I didn’t doubt then, or now, that someone innocent would have gotten seriously injured.
My boss asked me for a decision.
I made one. With multiple pissed-off groans, we ended up humping the explosives out of there on our backs. There was limited vehicular access, but the infantry has doubled as mules since the dawn of time.
Ten years later, and I am still convinced it was the right choice.
As my boss back then told me, no decision is also a decision.
A person who has never done anything has it easy when it comes to criticism. I am reminded of this when I watch the feeding frenzies on Internet personalities. I ask myself what decisions have these people made, what risks have they taken?
Chances are, few. Good old fashioned jealousy and schadenfreude seem to be the chief motivation of some.
Now, I am not saying to go out and make bad decisions. And some feeding frenzies are richly deserved. But that’s not the point of this piece.
What I am saying is that when you’re crafting a story, even if it is one that no one will ever read, the action is propelled forward by choices, good and bad. Be conscious of this, identify the various catalysts in your narrative. Make your character someone who acts, not someone who is passive, who is acted upon.
No one wants to read that. Also, no one wants to be that, either.
Start making decisions, whether it is a fictional narrative, or your personal journey.
It’s the stuff of life, and it’s what people want to read.