The Hate Barrier at the End of the Universe

You can’t be all things to all people. A strength in one area becomes, almost by default, a weakness in another. So it is with stories.

The great guru of story, Robert McKee, talks about the story triangle. The relationship between plot, character and idea which means that the more you have of any two the less you have of the third. (And attempting to have a balance of all three means having not enough of any). Stories are imperfect creations, that can at best please some of the people, some of the time.

So when starting to write a new story, our passions run high for what the story IS. A detailed character portrait. A high octane adventure. A sophisticated and original high concept. Words leave the imagination and hit the page like high energy particles after the big bang.

An hour, or a day, or a month (depending on the writer’s endurance) later and the universe of your imagination has hit a slow heat death. Every word that comes out is dark matter, part of a story caught in a decaying orbit around it’s own limitations. The high octane adventure has no space for detailed character study. The detailed character study is a high concept free zone. The high concept is unfolding so slowly it is barely diesel driven, let alone high octane. We hate our story not for what it IS, but for what it IS NOT.

(Which is why I hate my current fantasy adventure story for not being an experimental literary masterpiece!)

Such is the hate barrier. A tough (but not impenetrable) crust of self loathing that forms around the the molten story as it pours from the imagination and solidifies into the solid shape it will take in reality. As writers we train ourselves to joy in the limitless possibilities of the imagination, but we also have to train ourselves to accept and work with the limited possibilities of a story as it nears completion.

There are as many ways to tackle the hate barrier as there are writers. I am learning to work quickly and form the story whilst it is still hot from the imagination, and developing the mental strength to charge through the hate barrier if and when it emerges. I’d like to hear how other writers overcome the Great Wall of Hate!

(Which I am now going to attack again. Face the Hate! Grr!)

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