March 21, 2019 in Dag

I’d rather wrestle ideas than people

There are lots of different types of writers. Just as there are lots of different types of stories.

Some writers are really plot focussed. They’re the ones who create the tightly-plotted thrillers or the non-stop action adventures, or the far-ranging epic fantasies.

Then there are those who are more concerned with character. To them, a story is about creating a range of characters, putting them together and seeing what comes out. There might not be so much plot, but by the end of the story you feel like you have gotten to know everyone involved.

I’m not sure if I’m either of these types of writers. I feel like I fit into a third category. I think of myself as an idea-focussed writer.

Most of my stories are based on a central idea, or maybe several interrelated ideas. They could be big ideas about politics or economics or society. Or they could be little ideas about all those small niggly things that characterise human behaviour and interaction. Then, once I get the idea, I use the story to express that idea as deeply and richly as I can.

Which means, of course, that plot and character are both extremely important to me. Without either of those elements, I could not create an interesting or compelling story. It’s just that my main motivation with most of the stories I write is not about exploring a particular character or plotting an intricate story. It’s about using these aspects of storytelling as the tools to draw out and untangle the idea.

Sometimes, that idea becomes less important, moving forward. Sometimes, it’s barely even visible when the book is complete. That’s ok. As long as the result is a really good story, then I’m happy. In the end, the idea is the jumping off point for wherever the story takes me. I know it’s still in there, somewhere deep down, and that’s good enough for me.

This all makes sense if you know a little about me. I’m the most conflict-averse person you could ever imagine. The idea of getting into any kind of a disagreement with another human being is absolutely terrifying for me.

While going conflict free may be a good way to lead a life, it can be a bit of a problem for a writer, given that it’s tough to develop a story without any conflict. How do I resolve this issue? By making it primarily a conflict about ideas, rather than a conflict about people. That way, I don’t have to get caught up in the awkward and messy tangle of people batting heads with each other.

Because, just as in real life, I’d much rather wrestle ideas than have to wrestle people.

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