Saturday, 23 April 2011

Stories Are Like Bullets: Aim at One Target

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing me explain what many of you already know, so I'll try and make this the last of this particular series of posts, and get into something more savory next week.

The last of Vonnegut's eight rules that I will discuss is number seven, quoted below for those who don't recall it from week one:

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

This is one of the less-obvious of the rules, and one which rarely is followed as much as it should be. Writers often try to look at their piece and tailor it to 'Market Well' or to appeal to a 'Wider Audience,' and often end up diluting or perverting something that started as a good piece of fiction. This is a tricky rule for some people to stomach because they think that if their piece doesn't appeal or fit a certain mold, nobody will be interested in it. This is only half-true. If the story isn't any good, nobody will be interested in it. If you spend the time to make sure you are writing your story for the purposes of getting a good story, and not for purposes of who will or won't be interested in it, chances are you will have a piece that is good enough to gain interest.

A piece doesn't need to be liked, or be on a pleasant topic, to sell. One of Shakespeare's earliest tragedies, Titus Adronicus, gets a lot of criticism, both for content and style, yet it was as popular as it was brutal during it's hayday. For a more modern example, I suppose I could point out Eragon or Twilight, which have both sold extremely well, despite appealing to very specific groups, and drawing harsh criticisim from many, many other groups. In the end, your story doesn't need to please a wide audience, and most stories won't. But if you write well enough, there WILL be an audience, and their vastness may surprise you.

I'm pretty sure this is the same point your parents were trying t0 make when they lied to you about growing up to be the first president-cowboy-astronaut-superhero, actually. Who knew they had something worth listening to?

Ugh. This post makes me feel all good-guyish. I'll do my best to dash your dreams next week to make up for this.


  1. I think Stephenie Meyer made love to the world, justsayin'.

    Aaaallssooo, do you really want to dash my dreams? *puppy eyes*

    Also also, it's weird for me to make puppy eyes. D:

  2. Seth, this is a great post. One key thing about this focus is that in the world of the internet, marketable is a very different beast than back when TV and Radio were kings. So, yes, write to one, because that one has friends.