Wet rain and blowing here in the Texas hill country.
For Readers and Writers Both
I have made a rough division between two types of fiction. You may like reading one or the other. You may like writing one or the other. Neither type is the ‘right’ one. Neither is better or more intellectually superior than the other, although the current fashion in ‘literary fiction’ is for the first described below. What is vital here, for the writer, is that you have two different toolboxes for the two different kinds of narrative. It is absolutely imperative that a beginning writer understand this.
I hope this helps. I’ll be here all day.
Relationship novels. These are narratives, or stories, about relationships between people. They generally have to be really bad relationships or there’s no story. Love/hate relationships, those of marriages, parents and children, children and their grandparents, people and their bosses, people and their crummy oppressive society (‘nobody understands me’). In general, the purpose of the narrative is to explore human personalities, which also have to be fairly chaotic in order to be interesting.
I am not a fan of these types of stories but many people are and I don’t intend to put them down. They are often stories about how people are victimized by others. There has to be a fairly elaborate set-up for the main character to remain in a bad relationship. For instance someone taking care of an ageing parent and that ageing parent is a truly wicked and manipulating crone, people stuck in a bad marriage, or locked into the family firm with a barbarian grandfather dominating his heirs at the Torvald Rubber Works, and so on.
If you are writing this type of novel, then you can’t have many important external events, believe me. Forget the devastating storm, alien invasions, wars, economic collapse, zombies, the living dead, The Rapture, banditry, etc. External events might be there but they take a back seat.
Once external events overtake your characters, you simply have a different sort of story.
Remember this is about fiction.
A good example of the contrast between an action novel and a relationship novel is one that everybody knows; Gone With The Wind. I take it as an example even though it is badly written, still it has the two sorts contained within one work. In the first half, external events (the Civil War) are paramount and account for truly gripping scenes. The love story between Scarlett and Rhett is relegated to the background and even though it is very important it hangs fire while the Confederacy is busy losing the war. The second half of the book, after Scarlett pays the taxes, the narrative calms down and explores the clash of personalities; the war is over and the background has become stable and so then we concentrate on a wretched mix-up in love affairs.
And even then, the novel suffers a let-down. Nothing can match that first half.