I have a project on which I am working right now and part of it is a fiction component. I’m preparing some submission packages for long-form fiction in various genres – action, fantasy, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic. Now the post-apocalyptic one I have strong feelings on the characters and the atmosphere I am going to try to convey, but what I didn’t have for some time is confidence in the plot.
See, it’s basically a riff on the Searchers, the old John Wayne movie about a Civil War veteran in search of his niece who had been kidnapped by Native Americans. As I’m writing this piece, I’m wondering if it doesn’t need something more important. I was thinking that the search itself, each character’s motivation for joining in the search, and how each character changes as they grow more desperate was not enough. I was thinking there needed to be a bigger plot.
This is particularly odd because I’m generally very far from writing “epic” stuff for fantasy and sci-fi. I aim much more for gritty and small. I mean, my fantasy fiction has been very focused on sword noir – lower case for the genre rather than upper case for the game. But for some reason, as I’m working on this post-apocalyptic Western – and that’s really what it is – I thought I needed something more.
I can’t be the only writer that was raised on ideas of “important fiction.” I honestly thought I had moved away from that, that I had accepted I didn’t need to write “the great Canadian novel” or something of that kind to be happy as a writer. I guess it sometimes seeps back in. I guess sometimes we wonder if what we are doing has value.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a hack. I write to entertain, not edify. I’m not working on a message or delivering a statement. This story is going to be about some badasses trying to do something good with their lives, and then realizing what road those good intentions are paving.
Seriously, if I get this stuff done, that in itself will be a victory. Anything more is gravy.