fatally flawed to the core

The Difference Between Story and “Stuff That Happens”

And now, a question for main characters everywhere:

“How could you make your lives go from book-worthy adventures, to stories so normal (and boring) they’re not even worthy of sitcoms?”

Hint 1: Removing one thing would accomplish this. 

Hint 2: Main characters frequently wish this thing was gone, or never happened.

Frodo’s wishing it right here.

 If you eliminated one thing from the story, LotR could’ve been about a guy who goes for a long walk, hikes up a volcano, hurls a piece of jewelry into lava, walks home, then goes on living in the Shire.

Afterwards, Frodo could take up doily crocheting to fill the bland days. 

Or maybe chicken husbandry. 

Or he could be really venturesome and take up both hobbies. 

Yes, this version of “The Lord of the Rings” would be dull, mundane, and purposeless. But, it would’ve been a lot easier on Frodo. And this goes for all main characters. Exterminate this, and your lives cease to be troublesome. Or at least outwardly. Inside, you might still be rather unhappy. You’d still have trouble inside your head and your character, and there wouldn’t be any outward force pressuring those weaknesses into strengths. So, you couldn’t grow. But without this story element, their lives would become much easier. Examples:

– Frodo melts a piece of jewelry, then lives out his days making new doily hats for all of his chicken friends. 

– Judy Hopps arrives in Zootopia, and Chief Bogo greets her warmly. He gives her a custom-sized chair, lets her choose what case she’d like to work on, then resigns his job and gives it to her on the spot. 

– Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts and Snape ruffles his hair affectionately, Draco transfers to Durmstrang, Quirrel falls down the moving staircases (seriously, they changed position just so he’d fall down all of them) and is killed. Voldy decides to just give up and die.  Harry has a peaceful seven years of wizarding education.


Well, great. 

Those stories seem … fantastic. Really pleasant and uplifting. 

And also really really boring. 

Nobody will want to read that. Nobody would want to live that either, frankly. So sorry main characters, but you need this one element.  Because although this force produces all strife, the struggle against it also gives life shape, makes it interesting, makes it a good story. 

Sorry Frodo. Stop crying.

So what is this magical misery-inducing thing that marks the difference between boring and book-worthy?

Hi there. 

Yup, CONFLICT. Opposition. Misfortune. Trouble. 

The forces that try to stop the hero from achieving what they want. That apply pressure to your hero’s soul and forge it in fire, creating it into something far stronger. Without conflict, you don’t have a story. You just have “stuff that happens” and more than likely, that stuff will be boring. Remember, story at its most basic level =  “A person overcoming difficult obstacles to achieve a goal, and how that journey changes them.” 

So! Conflict is an essential element of the foundation of your entire story. So how do you find it? How do you create it? 

Ask the following: Who fights who? Over what? And why?


Well, your villain fights your hero. But, when you’re developing your villain, here’s a good trick: make the villain the shadow of your main character. Make them very similar. In fact, make the villain represent what the hero will become if they fail their arc. 


Your villain needs a goal, just like your hero. And it’s a good idea to make that goal the exact same thing as your hero’s goal, wanted for very different reasons. Most good stories work that way. 

Such as the Sorcerer’s Stone. 

Or the One Ring.

At first glance, some don’t seem to be battling over the same thing, but look closer: in a murder mystery, the detective and the murderer are battling over the truth about who killed the victim. 


At a deeper level, the fight between your hero and your villain is a fight between two opposing belief systems, or sets of values. Two opposing theories about How to Live Life Well. Your good characters have one thing they believe, and your bad characters have another. The story is going to prove that one is RIGHT, and the other is WRONG. Remember, your story has something to say. It is a dramatized idea, that your reader will learn, through the experience of living the story. Make sure that the argument you’re seeking to prove is, in fact, true. That it is morally and logically sound. 

Giving your story this depth, this hidden layer of meaning and truth, will elevate it instantly. Please remember though: Don’t make your villain’s opposing beliefs just blandly evil. His argument should make some sense – but have a fatal flaw in logic. The surface of his beliefs can look great, but the core is rotten. Seem fairer, but feel fouler. (Wow, apparently I’m in a Lord of the Rings mood.) 

So! When you’re locating and developing the Central Conflict of your story, think about these three questions:

1) Who fights who?

2) What are they fighting over?

3) Why are they fighting?  

anonymous asked:

No need to reply. Between yesterday's notes & reblogged meta, feels like rather than being fun/dramatic/tragic WicDiv is deliberately, totally depressing with a side of something like moralizing. You actually want readers to hate themselves for enjoying your book? (You assume anyone who liked the ending of the last issue did so b/c "the bad guy died"?) I can manage hating myself and being depressed just fine on my own, w/o reading a joyless trudge--no matter how pretty. I'm prolly out then.

No need to respond, of course, but I thought it worth stressing a few general points, if only to get my own thinking aligned.

Pomegranate Salad writes in what’s basically a psychological realist mode. She’s using a certain skill-set and knowledge base to approach the characters and read what she thinks they “mean”. That WicDiv supports it does say something about it as a book, but it’s a mode that you can apply to any media which features characters with any form of psychological realism. Literally, any level of psychological realism.

In that piece, Pomegranate Salad is drilling down on what she reads as a core axis of each character. By my reading, what she’s trying to analyse is a character’s hamartia - the core fatal flaw that leads them to tragedy. You simply don’t have a tragedy if you don’t have that. Anything that is dramatic/tragic to any reasonable degree would have someone do that article about it, especially if it was any good.

My own notes, as I stress in almost every one, is a selection of random thoughts as I skim the issue. It’s only a tiny fraction of what’s in the book, not least because I’m not going to say what the point of a story that’s only inching towards being half-way done is. Especially because the writer’s mood varies. If I’m in a self-hating hole, that kind of comes across.

In other words: I wouldn’t take my notes that seriously, as it’s far from the full story and even if it was my full story, it wouldn’t be the full story, as when the work is in the world, my critical response to it is no more valid than anyone else’s. The end of the arc is a mix of things. That image is simultaneously FUCK YEAH! and “Er…this bodes ill” and several other things. How people respond t that is going to vary individually.

I generally advise people who worry about commentary influencing their own response not to read the Writer Notes. The book is whatever you make of it. If it’s been working for you in the way you describe, I wouldn’t let a couple of other people’s take derail you from your own response.

If someone thinks about WicDIv as a melodramatic soap-opera of hot people making out and occasionally fighting, that’s fine. More than fine - it’s clearly true. If someone’s reading for the formalist playfulness, or what Jamie and Matt bring to the art, that’s fine - and clearly true too. If it’s about the arch one-liners, that’s also fine - and clearly true. And so on and so forth. It’s big serious work, but it’s also a book that thinks a 100ft tall robot woman with attack boobs is a good idea. I’ve always aspired to be Joy Division and the Ramones simultaneously, and much of my work is based around a rejection of a lot of dichotomies in art. WicDiv kind of is designed to be everything

Of course, it’s also often a dark book, and I can also understand that there’s times when a book’s timbre is just not something you need in your life. I still haven’t finished watching MAD MEN because it was too depressing to deal with. But generally speaking?  While we do vary the mode a lot, I suspect WicDiv will run on its mix of elation and despair for the rest of the run. Our primary axis is the rollercoaster not the abyssal dwelling. When we’re on, I think WicDiv takes you to hell and back again several times within an issue. That’s what we’ve always aimed to do, and continue to aim to do. If anyone has liked it so far, in all its forms, I suspect they’ll like it to the end.

In passing, as an open question as I’ve never found a satisfactory answer - where did fandom’s use of Meta originate from? I presume it’s just wanting to avoid the stuffiness of academia with the word “Criticism” and the analysis I’ve found doesn’t really capture the leap from the traditional use of meta to the fandom use. That said I haven’t gone through all the essay links here so I’m probably just being VERY LAZY. IGNORE THE QUESTION. I AM TOO LAZY TO EVEN DELETE IT.